As largely urban-based consumers, we expect that local farms will produce safe, nutritious and high-quality food for our families. However, in order to meet these expectations, BC’s family farms must remain viable. If the supply management system were to collapse, negative consequences would ensue for our communities, our economy, and food security —while providing few price benefits for consumers.
Without supply management, international markets would set Canadian dairy production and pricing. Family farms in BC would be forced to compete with large, industrial producers in the US and other countries. Many would not survive.
Dismantling the supply management system is unlikely to pass on cost savings to Canadian consumers. Canada’s retail sector is highly concentrated; our top three supermarkets have a combined market share of 88%, meaning that retailers have control over the average price of any food product. If farmers are paid less for what they produce, cost-savings are not necessarily passed on to consumers. In other countries, when farmers earn less for their labour, it’s usually retailers that profit.
Without supply management, agricultural production would be outsourced, leaving BC consumers with unstable prices. Consumer pricing would directly compete with export markets, so demand in Asia, for example, could upset Canadian prices. The result would be a loss of accessible food staples for BC families.
The remaining farms in BC would need to expand substantially in order to compete with imported products. Since the number of local farms would be reduced, dairy products would require transport over greater distances, resulting in higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our national food security would be threatened, as Canada would need to rely on the US or other countries for basic food staples, such as milk and cheese. As our dependence on foreign food imports increases, so do the risks of international shocks to our local food supply. Quality standards for our food are also compromised, as Canada’s domestic food regulation is stricter than other countries.
If family farms exit the industry, significant losses to Canada’s GDP and workforce will immediately follow. Job losses in rural communities are particularly difficult to absorb, as alternative employment is not readily available. The loss of our Canadian supply management system would make smaller communities across the country less viable.
Without supply management, the export potential would exist. However, without government support and major industry restructuring, it would be difficult for the dairy sector to compete with international producers from the US and Brazil.