New York’s junior U.S. senator is calling for assurances that the state’s dairy industry will be protected in any NAFTA renegotiation with Canada. In a conference call Tuesday, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand said the president should reject any plan with unfair quotas and tariffs or that prevents producers from selling milk products in Canada.
Senator Gillibrand says the dairy industry is in a bind with low milk prices and ineffective farm insurance programs. In addition, she says retaliatory tariffs resulting from the trade war is making things worse. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Gillibrand said in a conference call that there are two ways to protect dairy farmers from unfair trade practices. With renegotiations set to resume with Canada on Wednesday concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement, she wants the president to reject any deal that doesn’t benefit U.S. dairy producers. “Many of New York’s dairy farmers rely on the Canadian market in order to stay in business. But Canada has been unfairly subsidizing their own dairy industry for years and New York’s dairy products are essentially being blocked out of the market. The administration needs to make sure that in the new deal Canada is no longer subsidizing their own dairy farmers and that they finally get rid of their quotas on American milk that can be imported into their country.”
On Saturday, President Trump tweeted “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely…” Gillibrand says her call to protect New York dairy is not interfering. “There’s a lot of things that Canada has been doing to make it harder for our dairy farmers to sell their milk and so the letter’s very direct about the three or four things they could put into the negotiations to level the playing field and I don’t think they’d be seen as interference.”
On July 24th the Trump administration announced $12 billion in federal assistance for farmers adversely affected by tariffs. Gillibrand says dairy farmers are supposed to receive about $127 million of those funds. “While it’s not enough to cover the harm that’s been done by this trade war every little bit counts when our farmers are struggling to pay their bills. Yet there’s been no clear explanation for how and when these payments will be issued. So today I’m calling on the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately release those payments to our dairy farmers.”
In late August, the New York Farm Bureau led a number of agricultural interests in calling for an end to tariffs and the trade war which the organization says is causing economic hardship for family farms across the state. Associate Director of National Affairs Lauren Williams says continuing trade routes under NAFTA are critical. “It’s extremely brutal out there in the dairy industry. Farms are receiving less for their milk than what it costs to produce it. As we head into harvest season commodity prices for corn and soybeans are down as well. So we want some good market stabilization and I think if we get good trade agreements that helps put confidence not only in our producers but the processors as well. So I think Canada and Mexico to get a good agreement is good for our farmers.”