5, 2002: An American farm journalist sent me a note
the other day: "What I'd be most interested to hear from
you is your view of marketing boards. We hear a lot in the
States about how it's bad to have a Wheat Board -- a government
monopoly. Would I be correct in thinking that, for whatever
problems associated with the Wheat Board (and dairy and poultry
boards) that the Canadian government and people have decided
that it should come down on the side of farmers, instead of
leaving them to market their crops individually and taking
I've been a fan of supply management for a very long time.
A 1972 policy statement adopted by the Christian Farmers Federation
says: "Supply management programs in agriculture are
an effective tool against injustice, misuse of power, opportunism,
unfair competition and low returns to family farmers."
Granting supply management powers to farmers is a far better
approach to supporting agriculture than allotting massive
subsidies. Americans should remember that if Canada were to
give up managing the supply of milk, eggs and poultry for
our own markets, we would not give up producing milk, eggs
and poultry. We would just join them in the drive for efficiency
with lower prices.
If we drop supply management our competitiveness will drive
North American prices still lower. They will pump their government
for still bigger subsides. We too would be forced to seek
new safety nets. The supply management approach is a far superior
approach to the common good -- farmers are paid a fair price
by those who consume the food they produce.
There are two other reasons to support supply management
in agriculture: it is both necessary and inevitable in the
Supply management is inevitable as the food system is restructured
as value chains. The strength of value chains lies in their
ability to manage the supply of raw materials and products
from field to table. A private supplymanagement system is
emerging. The question arises: How are these value chains
different from the price fixing that is so abhorrent to the
publicgood? By comparison, the public good is better served
by opting for a publicly accountable and transparent supply
management system at the farm level.
Supply management is necessary because agriculture constantly
pressures creation to produce more than enough -- more than
economic demand. The routine production of surpluses is a
waste of environmental resources -- an unacceptable pattern
in a society committed toward environmental stewardship. Each
year the unfettered marketplace reduces creation to subsidizing
our living standards.
I value markets. When they don't deliver for the public good
its time to intervene .