The Laity farm is a                                 century-old institution in Maple Ridge. Matthew Laity explained his great grandfather Algernon built the barn on the right in 1912, along with a house and shed, then his grandfather James built the traditional red barn in about 1962.                                (Neil Corbett/                                THE NEWS)

The Laity farm is a century-old institution in Maple Ridge. Matthew Laity explained his great grandfather Algernon built the barn on the right in 1912, along with a house and shed, then his grandfather James built the traditional red barn in about 1962. (Neil Corbett/ THE NEWS)

Fight for the family farm in Nafta negotiations

Maple Ridge’s Laity family fears for the future

If Donald Trump and NAFTA negotiators get their way, and get access to Canadian milk markets, it could spell the end of family dairy farms in Canada, says long-time Maple Ridge farm family member Matthew Laity.

“It’s pretty scary, for sure,” said Laity, who has been watching the negotiations closely. “There is a lot of pressure on Canada, but there has been good support for farmers from government.”

The NAFTA negotiations threaten to tear down Canada’s supply management system that sees farmers own a quota of the milk that they are able to produce.

The U.S. president had set a deadline of Friday for a NAFTA deal, but talks are continuing this week.

The supply management system is designed to keep prices stable and eliminate waste caused by over production, and it applies to eggs, poultry and dairy.

That quota is a valuable commodity in itself, said Laity, and its loss would turn the dairy industry on its ear in Canada.

“That changes the whole game, and that changes the way banks look at us. And most farmers have a close relationship with their bank,” he said.

They need financing, because land values, quota, machinery and cattle are all expensive.

“I most certainly am worried. It [the outcome of NAFTA negotiations] could affect my viability to continue as a farmer.”

The reason, he said, is because industrial farms in the U.S. would flood the market in Canada with cheap milk. He said some consumers might hope for cheaper dairy products, but he believes quality would suffer. For example, Canadian dairy herds cannot be given steroids, but in the U.S. they can.

“Canada has some of the best milk quality in the world. But when you’re trying to compete for the lowest price, that’s not something that goes hand-in-hand with quality.”

The U.S. dairy industry is so massive, a single state – Wisconsin – produces more dairy products than all of Canada, according to Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“Clearly, the Canadian market is too small to make a dent in U.S. overproduction,” Lampron told the Los Angeles Times.

“While Canadians enjoy stable prices and supply, the U.S. market is vulnerable to unexpected surplus of product, driving prices down for farmers and disrupting the market for consumers,” Lampron wrote on the Dairy Farmers of Canada website.

“President Trump’s latest attack against Canadian dairy is misguided and does not solve the fundamental issues surrounding the instability of U.S. dairy.

However, President Trump isn’t going after the system of supply management as much as looking to dump surplus subsidized U.S. dairy products on the Canadian market.”

Laity also argues that U.S. farmers benefit from more direct government subsidies, although they don’t have supply management.

The Maple Ridge dairy farm, on 123rd Avenue, near Laity Street, was started by his great-grandfather Algernon, and has been passed down.

Matthew Laity’s 21-year-old son Jeremiah is in university now, but wants to one day take over the family farm.

“He is looking to continue the tradition,” Matthew Laity said.

Langley dairy farmer David Davis has 250 cows, but said he would need his herd to expand to at least 600 to compete with larger American farms. They would need a bigger farm, and would be forced to leave the Milner-area farm that has been in his family since 1885, he said.

“It’s a very scary time,” said his wife Nicole Davis.

Also waiting to hear how the NAFTA deal is finalized are the poultry and egg producers of the Fraser Valley.

“We’re all kind of on pins and needles,” said Bill Vanderspek, executive director of the British Columbia Chicken Marketing Board.

The industry employs many people directly and indirectly in B.C., Vanderspek said.

“We produce two million broiler chickens a week in British Columbia,” he said. Of those, 85 per cent are grown in the Fraser Valley.

Depending on those farmers are the feed mills, egg hatcheries, and local processing plants.

“It’s a tremendous amount of economic activity here in the Fraser Valley,” Vanderspek said. “Those towns would look a lot different without the poultry and dairy industries.”

– with files from

Matthew Claxton

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Connie Werzun has taken up photography classes, and tok this picture along the dikes at Jerry Sulina Park one night recently. Using a seven-minute exposure, “a photo taken at night looks like it was taken during the day.” (Special to The News)
SHARE: Night photo of mountain range appears as day

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Raphael Baruh of Slavic Rolls creates one of his Eastern European desserts at the Maple Ridge food truck festival on Saturday afternoon. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Food Truck Festival in Maple Ridge this weekend

Pick the drive-through lane for the food you like at Albion Fair Grounds

Coyotes walk down a Maple Ridge residential street. (Special to The News)
Security camera shows coyotes walking down Maple Ridge street

A warning to Silver Valley residents to keep their pets indoors, says home owner

Coach Ray Wakeman and the Maple Ridge Lawn Bowling Club are looking for new members. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Maple Ridge club looking for lawn bowlers

Games have been modified for safety during COVID-19

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Would Maple Ridge councillors want cannabis store beside them?

Resident concerned about how close cannabis store is to her home

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read