News / Winnipeg

'Don’t point the finger to Canada': Manitoba dairy farmers tell Trump to give his head a shake

After the U.S. president made comments in Wisconsin Tuesday regarding "very unfair" Canadian dairy farming practices, local producers fired back.

President Donald Trump speaks at tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, Wis., Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump speaks at tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, Wis., Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

After a pointed shout-out from President Donald Trump Tuesday, Manitoba dairy farmers fired back, calling his comments about Canadian dairy farming “very unfair” in their own right.

At a speech in Wisconsin, Trump criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and blamed Canada for "some very unfair things (that) have happened to our dairy farmers.”

David Wiens, a third-generation dairy farmer who lives and works near Grunthal, Man., said Trump’s claims are "certainly not fact."

Wiens, also the chairperson of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, said dairy imports from the U.S. into Canada have increased 17 per cent in the last year.

He emphasized Canada’s domestic dairy policy doesn’t affect international trade.

"Obviously they’re experiencing some difficult times down there and there’s a different way of doing things in Canada then there is in the U.S. when it comes to dairy," Wiens said, referring to Canada’s supply-management system in place since the 70s. 

"Under supply-management, we are matching supply with demand and this avoids the overproduction that we see in other jurisdictions," he said. "Really what it comes down to is in the U.S. and around the world, there’s too much milk that’s being produced at this time."

Lisa Dyck, a dairy farmer and ice cream producer with Cornell Creme near Anola, Man., said she was confident the Canadian government would stick by its dairy producers.

She said Trump’s comments didn’t concern her.

"I think he just says a lot of things without thinking of the consequences," Dyck said. "I think it’s great that he’s behind his farmers—he should be. But he needs to look at this as a whole."

"In the end, we’re all farmers. We understand. We are sad that they don’t have a place for their milk, but we didn’t do this… (so) don’t point the finger to Canada,” she said. "I hope they find a solution to their problem, I really do. But to point this at Canada, it’s very unfair."

Mike Raftis, vice president of sales, marketing and communications with Bothwell Cheese, echoed sympathies for American dairy farmers with surplus products.

Rather than fretting about Trump’s comments though, he said Bothwell is more focused on figuring out how the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will affect their cheese business as European competitors enter the local market.  

With files from The Canadian Press.

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