Baldwin: "Canadian trade dispute hurts dairy farmers"

ELK MOUND, Wis. (WEAU) -- Wisconsin dairy farmers may be forced out of business in just a couple weeks due to a trade dispute halting the export of their milk to Canada.

Thursday, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin met with several local farmers at Five Star Dairy Farm in Elk Mound to discuss the statewide ripple effect of the trade restrictions.

Baldwin has been pushing for a federal investigation into the Canadian trade restrictions since last fall however, she says waiting for the Trump administration's appointment of a new U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Agriculture Secretary has been stalling progress.

Baldwin added, “I have had the opportunity to speak with Sonny Perdue, the Trump nominee for agriculture secretary, who should get his confirmation vote a little over a week from now but we need our leaders engaged with our Canadian counterparts to see what we can do to walk this back.”

About 75 farms in Wisconsin have been told by May 1st milk processor Grassland Dairy will no longer buy their milk after Canada changed its dairy policies to favor domestic milk over a supply from the U.S.

“I believe it is a very unfair practice and as we're already seeing, and have for some time, it's creating ripple effects across Wisconsin's dairy economy,” said Baldwin.

The restrictions have left farms without a place to ship their product in an already oversupplied market and Baldwin says the result may mean losses of tens of millions of dollars.

“I think our top officials in agriculture, our trade representative office and in commerce need to be very direct with Canadian counterparts that this is cheating, this is unfair, we need a level playing field and quick action will bode well for healthy trade relationship going forward,” she added.

Owner and general manager of Five Star Dairy Lee Jensen said he is unsure of what will happen next.

“I think the general feeling is that it's going to hurt the basis of every dairy farmer in Wisconsin,” said Jensen.

Marty Hallock, the owner of Mar-Bec Dairy in Mondovi, said the effects of the trade restrictions will be felt throughout the state.

Hallock explained, “Every cow in the state of Wisconsin generates $34,000 dollars in economic value. This has a huge ripple effect, from veterinaries to feed, anything involved with agriculture, the equipment. It’s going to be hard to sell a tractor if you don’t know you’re going to need it.”

In a statement a spokesman for the Wisconsin Republican's Office says Baldwin is simply latching on to this bipartisan issue to cover up her long time support for policies that hurt farmers.

Currently farmers are racing to find a new processor or risk going out of business entirely.



 
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