Towards Supply Management 2.0 in Canada
A Discussion Paper by Union paysanne
The document Towards Supply Management 2.0 in Canada offers food for thought on issues related to the supply management system in Canada and its impact on farms, farmers and young farmers.
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31-page document produced by Union Paysanne, November 2014.
Over the last 10 years, criticism of supply management of Canadian agricultural commodities has increased. The most frequent arguments are directed at the prohibitive cost of quotas, the lack of room for new farmers, and constraints to trade.
To take into consideration all of the grievances leveled at supply management and their possible solutions in a single document would not do justice to the topic. Due to its gigantic proportions, its importance and also because of the differences between provinces, it became incumbent upon us to target certain aspects of supply management in order to better deal with them. We decided to focus on the slow cartelization of supply management because this tendency has spread widely across Canada.
To start production under supply management has never been so difficult, if not impossible, as far as profitability is concerned. The data presented in this document show that quotas are inaccessible and block entry to certain productions. Furthermore, certain mechanisms in place tend to block, rather than open the doors, to new generations of farmers.
In our opinion, it is this slow cartelization that poses the greatest risk to the future of supply management. For all practical purposes, supply management has excluded rather than included new generations of farmers. It has also limited access to niche markets for consumers. The guardians of supply management have done more harm than good by departing from the original social vocation of the system.
It became apparent that it was important to act now as discussions regarding supply management have for a long time been monopolized by two groups with opposing viewpoints. On one side are those who would like to put an end to supply management entirely (often the think tanks and the economists associated with a certain right wing economic vision) on the other side are those who would like to preserve the system as it is (those with quotas and producer associations). Neither group is listening to the other with the result that it has become difficult to have a healthy and constructive debate on the question. Incidentally, during the preparation of this document, several of the persons interviewed asked not to be identified because the subject has become too sensitive. Each of the parties prefers to have recourse to studies and promotion campaigns in order to sell their point of view. This standoff prolongs the status quo which is detrimental to producers and to Canadians in general.
The discussion proposed in this paper grew out of the unique structure of the Union Paysanne, founded in 2001, which brings together producers and citizens from all walks of life. In addition to the farmers who operate within the system of supply management, hundreds of individuals who had no place in it were thus able to have a voice. Opposing and complementary propositions were debated which enabled the development of new perspectives. The present discussion paper grew out of this debate. Our first objective was to prepare a short document which would be accessible and comprehensible to a general reader. We will begin by presenting the historical background of the system of supply management in order to review its founding principles and examine how it might be possible to reconnect with them.
A third path is urgently needed : a new way which will enable us both to protect supply management and to leave some room for the upcoming generations, for local and regional agriculture, for organic and for small-scale farmers. It is precisely for these groups that we intend to reappropriate the present and future of supply management of Canadian agricultural commodities.