Did you know if you bought a cow and sold even a litre of milk without being issued a government-issued quota you would be criminally charged?
Did you know if you own more than a few hundred chickens or turkeys and tried to sell the meat without a government-issued quota you would be criminally charged?
Did you know if you tried to become an egg producer beyond having a few hundred laying hens and you sold the eggs without a government-issued quota you would be criminally charged?
All the above statements sound absurd but they are all true in Canada. No other industries are as coddled and protected at the expense of consumers as dairy, poultry, and eggs.
All of these policies fall under a system simply called Supply Management. The name sounds innocuous enough and most people don’t even know what it is. That is just how the dairy cartels like it. As long as Canadians don’t know about how badly they are being ripped off by supply management, they won’t demand an end to the policy. The dairy cartels are very effective political lobbyists.
Once in a while, something brings supply management to the attention of Canadians. This happened recently when Ontario dairy farmer Travis Huigen posted a video showing himself dumping 30,000 litres of milk down a drain because it would be illegal for him to do anything else with it. If he even gave it to a foodbank he would be charged.
It is a stark demonstration of just how horrible and wasteful supply management policies are.
This kind of wasteful dumping has been happening for decades. My wife Jane grew up on a farm that had a small dairy element to it. Her father had a quota for cream, but not for milk. He would skim and sell the cream from his small herd. The remaining milk would be consumed by the family, and dumped in the ditch. A family can only drink so much milk even in a small operation.
Speaking of small operations, those don’t exist anymore. Supply management was supposed to protect the family farm. When supply management was imposed in the 1970s, there were 145,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today, there are less than 9,000. It is big business dominated by cartels and producers who hold those precious quotas.
Smaller farms that may want to diversify their production through poultry or dairy products must by quotas from other producers. Those producers aren’t eager to sell.
Can you imagine any other industry operating like this?
What if you owned a restaurant and had the government ban any other restaurant from operating within ten miles of your establishment?
What if you owned a bakery and the government banned competing bakeries from opening up unless they bought a quote of daily loaves allowable from you?
In such a circumstance, consumers will be screwed by the lack of competition among providers and that’s just what is happening with supply-managed industries.
Producers don’t have the incentives to be competitive or creative when they hold quotas protecting their income. They are artificially protected from having to deal with competitors who may have better ideas and more efficient production methods.
Years ago, it was estimated that the average family was paying $600 per year extra on their grocery bill due to supply management. With the current rate of inflation, that number is likely well past $1,000 now.
The cartels are powerful and it will take pressure for politicians to take this on. During the last Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, I interviewed every contender for the job on my show and made a point of asking about supply management. Only Scott Aitchison had the courage to say the policy had to be ended. What kind of conservative can support such terrible policies?
Conservatives that rely on campaign donations from dairy cartels. That’s who.
Consumers and voters need to wake up and pay attention on this issue. Instead of blaming Loblaws for grocery inflation despite their having only a 3.8% profit margin, have a look at supply management policies.
New Zealand and Australia had similar supply management policies and both nations got rid of them. Dairy cartels howled and claimed it would kill the industry. Instead, the dairy industries got stronger, new export opportunities opened up and the consumers won.
Put the pressure on your politicians. Food security is a complex issue but not when it comes to supply management. The policy is screwing Canadians and the fix is easy.
Dump supply management. Not milk.
On a final note, most of Canada’s dairy operations are in Quebec. That of course explains much of why politicians are terrified to deal with the issue as well.
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