WASHINGTON – President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer are banding together to fight what they see as Canada's attempt to block U.S. dairy producers from shipping huge amounts of one of their key products north of the border.
Schumer said Friday morning that he spoke with Trump about the matter Thursday, and that the two men will join with Ryan to tackle the Canadian dairy trade issue.
Dairy farmers in both New York and Wisconsin – the nation's top two milk-producing states – say the new Canadian trade policy in effect blocks U.S. dairy producers from exporting ultra-filtered milk, which is used to make cheese and yogurt, to Canada.
“President Trump and I spoke yesterday about reversing Canada's new and unfair dairy-pricing policy," Schumer said in a statement. "It is an unwise policy that violates our agreements and hurts our farmers, and we agreed to work together to immediately address the issue."
Given the fact that Wisconsin's farmers say they suffer, too, under the new Canadian policy, Schumer, the Democratic leader from New York, said he suggested to Trump that they reach out to Ryan, the Republican leader from Wisconsin.
"The three of us, in conjunction with Senator Tammy Baldwin and other stakeholders, will develop a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue," Schumer said. "We can all agree that, it is critical to level the playing field for our hard-working dairy farmers and make sure our Canadian neighbors rescind their unfair policy and again play by the rules.”
In other words, milk appears to be bringing the Republican president and the nation's top Democrat together after months of acrimony between the two men on issues such as health care, immigration and the release of Trump's tax returns.
Canada regulates milk prices in a much more aggressive fashion than the U.S. government does, but the Canadian government had not lowered the price of Canadian-made ultra-filtered milk until recently.
U.S. dairy farmers contend that the new Canadian policy, first rolled out at the provincial level last year but soon set to go national, drops the price of that Canadian product to the point where U.S. producers can no longer make money selling it north of the border.
The U.S. dairy industry views that Canadian milk-pricing scheme to be an unfair trade practice – one that this week caught Trump's attention.
“We are also going to stand up for our dairy farmers,” Trump said Tuesday while discussing his "America First" policies in a speech in Wisconsin. “We’re going to get together and we’re going to call Canada and we’re going to say what happened, and they might give us an answer – but we’re going to get a solution, not just the answer.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin also have complained about the Canadian dairy pricing practices.
That prompted the Canadian ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, to respond in a letter to the two governors this week.
"Canada does not accept the contention that Canada's dairy policies are the cause of financial loss for dairy farmers in the United States," MacNaughton said.
Instead, MacNaughton said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own dairy market research "clearly indicates the poor results in the U.S. sector are due to U.S. and global overproduction."
And in a statement released Thursday, Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, said there's actually a trade imbalance on dairy products that benefits the United States.
“Dairy trade between Canada and the U.S. massively favors the U.S., by a ratio of five to one," she said. "Canada is the second-largest export market for U.S. dairy products, surpassed only by Mexico."
With Trump – who has said he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement – now in the Oval Office, Freeland went on to defend Canada's trade policies not only on dairy, but also on wood products and oil.
“Our government will always defend Canada’s interests," she said.