Canadian supply management should be discussed

Aug 2, 2017

As Canadian trade officials prepare to face off against their US counterparts in two weeks, most people in this country say scrapping the current supply management system should be – at minimum – on the negotiating table during the upcoming NAFTA talks.

Indeed, while just one-quarter of Canadians (26%) would opt to scrap the current regulatory framework for Canadian agriculture producers outright, a plurality (45%) are persuaded to see it used as a trading piece, but only as a last resort, if negotiations get tough.

Meantime, a significant segment (29%) indicate they are committed to keeping this structure in place for Canadian farmers, even if it means facing retaliation from the Trump administration.

The latest study from the Angus Reid Institute also indicates these views are subject to a low level of knowledge about the supply management policy – and the lens through which Canadians view the issue.

Only a handful of Canadians (4%) say they know “a lot” about the system, while a full majority say they know “nothing at all about it”.

As consumers, faced with a hypothetical choice between the current price for supply managed goods or a potentially lower, unregulated price, two-thirds say they would opt for the cheaper option.

As citizens, however, respondents are sympathetic to arguments about income and market stability for the nation’s farmers. Indeed – separate from the conversation about supply management’s place in a NAFTA renegotiation, just one-third say they oppose supply management on all currently regulated agricultural products.

Canadians are of three mindsets when it comes to supply management. One-third (34%) support the continued regulation of all currently supply managed products (eggs, poultry, dairy), while one-third (33%) oppose it on the same set of products. Another third (33%) either hold mixed feelings, or are unsure.

When presented with arguments for and against supply management and then offered two prices – one, the current rate, and another, a reduced rate that research suggests would be a result of scrapping the system – two-thirds of Canadians opt for the cheaper price for milk, cheese, eggs, and chicken

Canadians are divided on the issue of quality control in a non-supply managed market: 35 per cent say the quality of dairy, eggs and chicken will suffer, 38 per cent say it won’t be negatively affected

A plurality (44%) say Canadian farms will operate more efficiently were government to scrap supply management; three-in-ten (29%) fear many farmers would leave the industry if regulatory support ended

More Canadians support than oppose the idea of compensating farmers for the lost value of their quotas through a small tax of 5 to 10 per cent on previously supply-managed goods