What does government have to do with agriculture?

When did the Canadian government implement a food policy?


beginnings of supply management

Supply management was designed in Canada to solve multiple problems. Farmers with perishable products, such as milk, could be pressured into accepting lower prices to avoid a spoiled product that they could not sell. If farmers each tried to compensate for lower prices by producing more, the result was too much supply in the market. This could lower prices even more. One solution was to dump the excess milk, wasting it.

Consumers were affected by price instability, inconsistent supplies and seasonal shortages. It was also difficult to ensure consistent quality when farmers could not rely on a fair return for their efforts and investment.

Supply management was developed for dairy in Ontario and Quebec in the 1960s. During this time, dairy farmers organized and took political action to address the problems that led to both milk shortages, over-production and waste as well as incomes that were not stable. Milk prices fluctuated seasonally and were often below the cost of production. At times, processors would turn farmers away. 

What economic issues were faced by farmers and consumers?

Elsewhere in Canada, fresh milk supply was inconsistent, sometimes with no milk available at all. In 1969, dairy farmers made a deal with the governments of Ontario and Quebec. Farmers made a commitment to apply production limits. In exchange, the governments of Ontario and Quebec implemented supply management regulation for dairy. Other provinces soon followed.

The supply management system for chicken and eggs had been initiated in British Columbia in 1961 due to similar problems resulting in unacceptable price volatility. Ontario and Quebec, then Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia followed with provincial programs.

However, imports from the United States and other provinces that did not have supply management undercut prices and weakened these new systems. In 1971, the federal government passed the Farm Products Marketing Agencies Act which brought all provinces into the system. In 1979, import controls were established. Starting in 1973, supply management for turkeys followed in the footsteps of dairy, chicken and eggs.

On what principles was the government establishment of a supply management system based?


supply management from the farmers’ perspective

Watch this original project AGRICULTURE video interview to hear directly from Alberta farmers how supply management works and can benefit both farmers and consumers.

share your learning

Explore Projects →