NMPF Calls on U.S. Government to Reject Canadian Dairy Quota Proposal

NMPF firmly rejected a proposal made public on March 3 by Global Affairs Canada that outlined “modifications” to its U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) dairy tariff rate quota (TRQ) allocations and has urged the U.S. government to do the same.

The Federation initially called out Canada’s attempts to circumvent its dairy market access obligations shortly before the trade pact’s implementation in July 2020. Following evaluation of input submitted by NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) launched the first-of-its-kind USMCA dispute settlement panel in May 2021 over Canada’s TRQ allocations. The panel’s ruling, released in January 2022, requires Canada to modify its TRQ allocation process to come into compliance with the trade agreement.

Unfortunately, Canada’s plan to revise its tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) falls well short of its USMCA requirements. For instance, the new proposal continues to exclude retailers and food service companies and to strongly favor Canadian dairy manufacturers. USTR had raised these specific concerns during the dispute panel process.

Given Canada’s proposal is more akin to a token gesture than an actual remedy to the industry’s concerns, NMPF is now working with allies in the House and Senate to urge USTR to reject Canada’s proposal. Multiple House letters are being sent to USTR to this effect.

As the first such dispute panel under the USMCA, USTR’s actions in this matter will set a powerful precedent on whether USMCA enforcement cases are up to the task of holding all Parties to the agreement to account. USTR will need to demonstrate that the USMCA enforcement process can deliver the reforms needed to bring about full implementation of the agreement.

NMPF Board Member Testifies Before Congress on USMCA

NMPF Board of Directors member and Idaho dairy producer Allan Huttema testified July 27 before the Senate Finance Committee on U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement implementation and the importance of subsequent enforcement for dairy provisions.

Huttema, who also serves as chair of the Darigold and Northwest Dairy Association boards, highlighted the need for close monitoring of USMCA trade partners’ implementation of the trade deal – including Canada’s dairy tariff rate quota allocations and milk protein exports, and Mexico’s integration of common cheese name protections and its troubling increase of unwarranted regulatory barriers. During his testimony, he also stressed the critical importance of building on the progress initiated with USMCA by pursuing additional agreements with key dairy markets such as the United Kingdom and various Asian markets.

“It has been a very long time since Congress passed a new free trade agreement, aside from USMCA for which we are very grateful,” Huttema said in his testimony. “Our industry needs new trade agreements with key export markets to counter our competitors, namely the EU and New Zealand. As our competition continues to ink new trade deals, the United States is increasingly left in the dust.”

NMPF worked closely with Huttema and Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold to help strongly spotlight the dairy industry’s priorities and concerns during the hearing. Seven committee members raised dairy issues throughout the hearing including robust comments of support in the opening remarks of the Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member. The Senators’ comments spanned the gamut including Canada compliance concerns, Mexican nontariff barrier issues, broader market access goals, and common names threats.

“NMPF and the dairy producers it represents are grateful to the Senate Finance Committee for inviting Allan to discuss the benefits that the USMCA has brought U.S. dairy producers and cooperatives,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “But as Huttema said so well, adequate enforcement is necessary to ensure American dairy producers are provided the access promised in the agreement. We are grateful to the Senate Finance Committee members for their advocacy in support of the recently initiated dispute settlement proceedings over Canada’s dairy tariff rate quotas (TRQs) – a critical step in enforcement of this agreement.”