"Leave us out of it." That's what Dairy Farmers of Canada is saying about its supply management system, in the debate over the Canadian Wheat Board.
In mid October, DFC President Wally Smith sent an urgent letter to the federal party leaders asking them to quit linking the two systems. "People are linking the two when in fact they're not linked at all. We're just being caught up in the discourse," he says.
Later in the same letter, Smith says that supply management and the CWB are indeed similar systems. "We do not want our system to be drawn into discussions on other collective marketing systems such as the Canadian Wheat Board."
DFC's stated mission is to promote and defend the interests of Canadian dairy producers. As well, DFC acts for Canadian dairy producers, providing leadership with "producers working together in taking control of their collective destiny."
That sounds a lot like the CWB, doesn't it?
Like it or not, the two systems really are linked under international trade rules and language. Trade negotiators claim supply management and the CWB give Canadian farmers an "unfair advantage".
The solution, according to negotiators, government and industry is get rid of both of them. And that is the mandate of the current Canadian government. Take control out of the hands of the farmers, and place that power firmly in the hands of transnational trading and processing giants.
For many years, the majority of farmers on the prairies have realized that they would have to fight to save their CWB. These same farmers have appealed to Canadian farmers who operate within supply managed/orderly marketing systems, to stand with them at the podium, and on the streets, telling the government to keep their hands off their farmer-led and farmer-controlled marketing systems.
The NFU wants all farmers that enjoy supply management to realize that, once the CWB is gone, there will only be one chip to play in the trade game, and that chip is the supply managed sectors.
The verse I have included here was inspired by the original written by Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), an ardent nationalist and prominent protestant minister who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemoller's poem was "FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS."
I wrote this poem in a moment of complete frustration shortly after returning from the WTO ministerial meetings in Hong Kong in December, 2005. At those meetings Canadian negotiators were ready to put the Canadian family farm on the negotiating table, including both supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. Today, the poem is more relevant than ever.
They Came for the Farmers
They came for the CROW, but I wasn't impacted by the loss of the CROW, so I just kept on working,
Then they came for the rail lines and producer cars, but I didn't think I was being impacted by the loss of the rail lines and producer cars, so I just kept on working my own farm,
Then they came for the local elevators, but I live close to major ports, so I didn't worry and just kept on working,
Then they came for the Hog Marketing Board, but I don't raise hogs, so I just kept on working, and my neighbours emptied their barns when the low prices hit and stayed,
Then they came to assist in the concentration of the beef packing industry, but I don't raise beef, so I just kept on working,
Then they came for farmer's rights to save seed, and I was too busy and overwhelmed working my farm and trying to hold down that new off farm job that I needed, to pay much attention,
Then they came for the Canadian Wheat Board, but I don't farm in the prairies, so I just kept on working, while my friends on the prairies fought so hard, for so long, and in the end almost died on that hill,
Then they came for supply management, but there were not enough family farmers left to rally behind those family farms, and my neighbours have emptied their barns.
Now there are no more family run farms in Canada, because I was too busy working. And now the Canadian consumer wonders what happened to all that food that used to be grown in Canada.