WI Senator fights Canadian milk trade barriers

Published: Sep. 7, 2016 at 5:23 PM CDT
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A Wisconsin Democratic Senator is calling for a federal investigation into trade deals that could threaten Western Wisconsin dairy farmers.

Senator Tammy Baldwin says millions are being lost in milk export sales to Canada due to dairy pricing changes this spring.

Baldwin is asking USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael to investigate the new Canadian dairy pricing policies to see whether they're fair and to make sure trade agreements are being upheld.

“You need to investigate whether trade deals are being broken though this policy and you especially need to talk with your Canadian counterparts now that they're looking at expanding this Ontario based policy nationwide,” said Baldwin.

Agricultural agent at UW-Extension Mark Hagedorn says Canada is pushing to impose limitations on the importation of milk products.

“If we aren't able to export products it will have an impact on what we receive in our milk check every month. The more products we have here at home the less value it has here,” explained Hagedorn.

Hagedorn says the push by Baldwin and New York Senator Chuck Schumer may prevent the loss of millions of dollars in milk exports for Wisconsin.

“If the rules keep getting changed in the middle of the game that's going to make things problematic for us on our supply end and I think that's the big driver that we're seeing from Senators Baldwin and Schumer,” said Hagedorn.

Baldwin says the policy would expand trade disruption caused by Ontario’s new pricing program which favors Canadian milk over U.S. dairy imports.

Baldwin said, “I think this situation is urgent. Right now our dairy farmers have faced a very tough period of low milk prices and this sort of trade barrier is compounding an already very difficult situation for our dairy farmers.”

If negotiations take place soon Hagedorn says it may keep the playing field level.

“If we're able to keep things in place that we're used to working with, we've got the infrastructure built to supply then we're going to be okay,” added Hagedorn.

Baldwin says there isn't a timeline on when the conversation with Canada representatives will take place but does say she and Schumer are waiting to hear back from the trade representative and the USDA to begin negotiations.