With free trade between Canada and the U.S. a hot-button issue of late, the mention of Donald Trump on a tour of a dairy farm is like throwing a match in a gas tank.
“Oh, how much time do you have buddy?”
That was sixth generation Chilliwack dairy farmer Devan Toop when asked how concerned he was about Trump’s comments about supply management amid ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations between Canada and the U.S.
Trump has called Canada’s dairy system a subsidy and an example of Canada’s unfair trade practices.
“I really wish that he truly knew the source of the problem,” Toop explained briefly on the 17th annual Chilliwack Agriculture Tour on Friday in between questions about his animals and his high-tech robotic milking apparatus.
“It’s all politics. He just turned Wisconsin into a red state and he’s trying to give them something.”
|Attendees visit with the cows at Toop Farms on Sept. 21 during the 17th annual Chilliwack Agriculture Tour. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)|
Toop explained that the state of Wisconsin alone milks 1.3 million cows.
“There is one million cows in all of Canada,” he said, pointing to the over-production of American dairy farmers, which leads to dumping and waste.
“The problem with their milk system isn’t having enough places to put it, it is that they are over-producing on such a grand scale. They are dumping milk left, right and centre.”
“He doesn’t know what the real problem is. They need supply management just as bad as we need to keep it.”
Politics, of course, was not the point of the Chilliwack Agriculture Tour, a popular event attended by local politicians and other guests, many of whom work with farmers on the business side of agriculture: realtors, lawyers, accountants, bankers.
The event is a reminder of just how important agriculture is in Chilliwack, with 67 per cent of the land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and $462 million in gross farm receipts in 2016.
Chilliwack generates the second highest gross farm receipts out of all B.C. municipalities, and it’s growing all the time. That $462 million in 2016 is up from $360 million in 2011 and $253 million in 2006.
Construction in the sector is booming pointing to growth and modernization. In 2017 city hall issued 100 agricultural building permits worth $21.4 million. That’s up from 73 permits worth $13.8 million in 2016 and 55 worth $12.5 million in 2015.
Before visiting Toops Farms and his 310 milking cows, the agriculture tour guests stopped at Poplar Farms in Yarrow. This 25-year-old broiler breeder hatching egg facility has six barns and uses modern technology for ventilation and egg collecting.
After Toop Farms, which has milked robotically since June 28 and is the largest BouMatic Robotics farm in Canada, the tour stopped at the Pacific Dairy Centre, a supplier of equipment to dairy farms across B.C.
Last stop was at Quik’s Farm, a second-generation cut flower farm on Prest Road at Highway 1. Quik’s operates over 10 acres of state-of-the-art glass greenhouses used for year-round indoor growing, and another 20 acres of outdoor field growing.