By Tara Henley 
BELLEVILLE – Local farmers say they’re nervous after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement this week that Canada has become a founding member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership .
The 12-country trading bloc – the largest of its kind – will potentially see a significant drop in tariffs, allowing for more duty-free imports of poultry, egg and dairy products from TPP countries into Canada. Although the government has promised farmers a compensation of $4.3 billion over the next 15 years, many farmers are still uneasy over the deal.
Brian Clement, owner of Clement Poultry farm in Newcastle, said he’s hoping not to be affected by the trade deal.
“People on smaller farms are just trying to make a living,” Clement said. The deal would mean “it’s going to be harder for the younger generation if they’re trying to take over the family farm.”
The Conservative government said this will mean cheaper products for consumers and a more versatile market.
Clement said he isn’t worried about the competition for his products that the deal would bring.
“I’m a fourth-generation poultry farmer. I raise, process and package my own poultry,” he said when asked about his marketing strategies. “I already have my business established. I raise my product a lot differently than commercial farms, and the organic aspect of poultry and how it’s raised is what a lot of people are going for these days.”
Sid Atkinson, a dairy farmer in Northumberland County who sits on the board of directors for Dairy Farmers of Ontario , said that he is worried about what the deal will mean for the industry.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been a major concern to dairy farmers. There has been a strong lobby with Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Dairy Farmers of Canada ,” he said. “But we all realize the necessity of trade in this country.”
Christine Sheahan, the manager of the Reid’s Dairy store on Bell Boulevard, said she is against the new deal.
“I believe that the local dairies are going to suffer, and (Reid’s) could as well,” Sheahan said, adding that she doesn’t think the compensation given by the government is going to help local dairy farmers.
“I think farmers are already in trouble as it is, and I think that with this (deal) it’s going to affect them even more.
“They need help now, not over the span of 15 years.”
Ryan Seward, head of resources at Reid’s, said he’s worried about the quality of milk products that Canada could potentially see with the imports.
“My biggest concern is that Canadians have the best-quality food product available,” Seward said. “Buyer beware: not all milk is real milk.”
The TPP isn’t a done deal yet. It still has to be ratified in national legislatures. In Canada, that process will begin after the federal election on Oct. 19.