Cuomo presses Canada to resolve potential export barriers with NY milk suppliers

Posted 1 November 2016 at 8:09 am
File photo by Tom Rivers: A dairy cow is pictured during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in Knowlesville in July 2013.

File photo by Tom Rivers: A dairy cow is pictured during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in Knowlesville in July 2013.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced his opposition to proposed regulations that would create a barrier for New York’s dairy farmers exporting a key New York dairy product to Canada.

In a letter to Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, Gov. Cuomo called on the Canadian Government to develop a national agreement that will mutually benefit trade across borders. If proposed provincial standards are implemented across Canada, they could result in a $50 million market loss for New York’s dairy industry.

“New York’s dairy sector is an essential part of our agricultural industry, and these regulations could have devastating effects on our dairy farmers and their families,” Governor Cuomo said. “I urge our Canadian neighbors to reconsider these potentially harmful regulations and to continue our courteous, mutually beneficial trade relations.”

The Governor’s letter coincided with the 25th Tri-National Agricultural Accord, held last week in the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The Tri-National Agricultural Accord provides a forum for the United States, Canada and Mexico to work together toward shared priorities and discuss important topics, including climate change, trade and the expansion of food processing sectors.

The Governor’s actions are in direct response to the Province of Ontario and the Canadian Milk Supply Management Committee’s regulatory plans, which include the Ontario Class 6 regulation and the proposed establishment of a new National Ingredient Strategy that could effectively restrict New York exports of ultra-filtered milk. Ultra-filtered milk is a protein-rich type of skim milk and is primarily used in the production of cheese and yogurt.

The letter calls on the Canadian government to confirm that Ontario’s Class 6 regulations and the Canadian National Ingredients Strategy are both consistent with existing World Trade Organization policies and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Over the course of the last several months, New York State has made several attempts to find a solution agreeable to both parties. During a recent visit to Canada, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul raised the concerns of New York State with Canadian officials, and in August, New York Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball sent a letter to his counterpart in the Province of Ontario, outlining the critical nature of the proposal and its effects on New York State. Commissioner Ball attended the Tri-National Agricultural Accord last week to raise New York State’s concerns in person.

New York exports more to Canada than to any other country in the world. Last year, the bilateral trade relationship totaled $32.93 billion in goods and supported over 500,000 jobs regionally. New York’s dairy industry is the State’s largest agricultural sector. With more than 5,000 farms, the majority of which are family-run operations, the dairy industry supports the framework of the agricultural economy. The dairy community brought in $2.5 billion in sales, and the dairy industry hired almost 20,000 people in New York in 2015. New York’s dairy products also account for at least 50 percent of all New York State agricultural commodities exported internationally.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “New York’s dairy farmers rely heavily on the export of their products and we need to do what we can to ensure they continue to have a home for their milk. We are hopeful the Canadian government, as it weighs its options, will take into account its long and successful trade partnership with New York, and act to resolve this issue that would be detrimental to our agricultural industry.”

John Gould, Chairman of the Board of Directors of O-AT-KA said, “O-AT-KA Milk Products is a business that reflects the effort, investment and hopes of hundreds of dairy farmers in Western New York and the hundreds of people we employ in Batavia. Canada continually attempts to erect trade barriers where there should be none and this behavior places 20% of our sales or about 180 million pounds of annual milk production at risk of not having a market. We greatly appreciate the Governor’s support in fighting back as Canada should not be able to unilaterally change regulations that contradict their obligations to longstanding trade agreements.”

Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, “Canada is an important trading partner for New York State and our agricultural community. At a time when low milk prices are threatening the viability of some family farms, any step by Canadian leaders to unfairly restrict the flow of milk into the Ontario province and beyond will have detrimental impacts on farmers and the overall farm economy. We appreciate Governor Cuomo and his administration for raising this issue with the Prime Minister, and New York Farm Bureau will continue to work with our state and federal leaders to keep milk flowing across the border.”