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Rural mayors support farmers


Local farmers joined counterparts from Quebec and elsewhere,Thursdaymorning, for a gathering at Parliament Hill. They met with their Québec counterparts for a protest rally against international trade policies that they claim threaten their live- lihood. The June 2 gathering was the second farmers’ protest rally on The Hill, aimed at both creating greater public awareness of the problems farmers face against interna- tional competition for the homemarket, and also pressing the new Liberal government to protect Canada’s dairy industry against dumping of American milk products into the homemarketplace through trade agree- ment loopholes. “To Justin Trudeau: Put on your boxing gloves and defend us from the U.S.A. and support your Canadian farmers,” stated Chris Ryan, a St-Isidore dairy farmer, during in- terviews with regional and national media. Ryan and other dairy farmers in both Eastern Ontario and Western Québec are pressing for tougher policies on cross-border trade, including a halt to imports of diafil- tered milk. Diafiltered milk is a powdered protein product used inmaking cheese and other dairy products. Imports from the U.S. are allowed in duty-free because they are not considered “real milk” under the terms of the current Canada-U.S. trade agreements. Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Liberal MP Francis Drouin spent more than an hour talking with local farmers at the rally before he had to go inside for Question Period. During a later phone interview, Drouin re- affirmed his election campaign promise of support for the supply management policy meant to protect Canadian agriculture against unfair competition. He noted that the farming sector needs to keep remind- ing the federal government of its concerns. “If we don’t keep the (lobby) pressure on,” said Drouin, “then it’s another lobby sector which will keep pressure on.” The MP also noted that while diafilteredmilk imports are legal under the terms of the current trade agreements, the Canadian dairy industry

MP Francis Drouin talks with some of the farmers, fromhis ownGlengarry-Prescott-Russell riding and other parts of EasternOntario, who drove their tractors to Ottawa, on June 2, to join their Québec counterparts in themost recent farmers’ rally on Parliament Hill, to lobby for protection of Canadian farm products against foreign imports. —submitted photo

could compete better against the U.S. im- ports if it received help with upgrading aging equipment. “That’s what I’m fighting for,” Drouin said, “to get the processingmoney.” Mayors of rural municipalities in Prescott- Russell expressed support for farmers who took part in last week’s rally and also for all farmers in their areas, working in the produce or dairy sectors. “I support local farmers,” said Mayor François St-Amour of The NationMunicipality, adding that the U.S. dairy industry should respect its Canadian counterpart. “It’s tougher and tougher for farmers, for all their efforts, to get fair prices,” saidMayor Gary Barton of Champlain Township, which includes the Vankleek Hill area. “I don’t think we should be opening our borders to let anyone ship milk here.” “The agricultural policies are ruining the rural areas,” saidMayor Robert Kirby of East Hawkesbury Township, himself a working

farmer with amixed dairy/cash crop opera- tion. “There are no more incentives. We’re all losing money. If Canadians want their farmers to survive, they’d better look at the situation pretty quickly.”

“I think the government should be very careful about what they do,” saidMayor Guy Desjardins of Clarence-Rockland. “We’ve got a top-quality product and I don’t see why the government is playing around with that.”

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