Alberta dairy farmer explains why he’s disappointed with NAFTA replacement

By Kyle Benning
Videographer Global News

Conrad van Hierden says he is feeling a little sour following the Canadian government’s announcement that they have reached a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The dairy farmer from Fort Macleod says he is sick of being used as a pawn after learning of the new trade agreement, which allows U.S. dairy producers greater access to the Canadian market.

“It seems like the dairy industry has been making more concessions than they’ve been getting out of it — and this one even more so,” he said on Monday.

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His feelings match those of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, who says similar trade deals like Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have hampered their role in Canada’s milk market.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was struck on Sunday night.

“In the long run, there’s going to be a lot more American products on our shelves and our consumers will have to go through that,” van Hierden said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland are championing the deal, calling it a victory for the middle class and for Canadian businesses.

“We have always just focused on the reality that this is a good deal for everyone and we’ve always believed that we were going to get here,” Freeland said.

At a news conference on Monday, Freeland said dairy producers will be fully and fairly compensated.

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She added the government has already started working on that compensation package, but didn’t release any details.

So far, van Hierden isn’t impressed with the plan.

“We’re not for sale as a dairy industry,” he said. “We don’t want to be put up and get cash back for something we’re not doing.

“We work hard but we want to have a fair return for our investments. So fair trade is always better than using one commodity to make an agreement happen.”

READ MORE: Canadians shouldn’t bet on lower dairy prices under new trade deal: experts

van Hierden says he believes the new agreement could result in revenue losses of up to 15 per cent and said it will prevent a lot of Alberta dairy farmers from investing further in their business.