What supply management means for Canadians


Supply management is a sustainable agricultural system that provides peace of mind to farmers and consumers. Here's what it means for Canadians.

By DFC - PLC, Communications Team

Did you know that supply management is a Canadian success story? It was invented here in the 1960s following a period of market volatility as a way to ensure a fair return for farmers and to meet domestic demand. Today, dairy, egg and poultry farmers operate under supply management.  

To better understand supply management, it helps to break it down into three important pillars that deliver fairness for consumers, farmers and Canadians: 

Only the right amount of food is produced to meet consumer needs

At its core, supply management is about teamwork because farmers work together, agreeing to terms and conditions that provide a stable and predictable supply of products for consumers. This helps reduce waste from farmers producing too much, and avoids consumers being unable to access the products they need if farmers were to produce too little. 

Being efficient like this is important because it creates a sustainable industry – something that is a priority for consumers and farmers alike. 

Family grocery shopping.

Prices are set in a way that lets farmers rely on a liveable income

Farmers collaborate to sell processors the food they produce at a price that reflects their costs of production. Just as someone working an office job knows they will earn a salary for the work they do – supply management allows farmers to have that same security. Countries that don’t use supply management often have to provide extra support for farms through subsidies. This means in the U.S., for example, consumers pay twice for their dairy: once through their taxes, and again in retail stores. 

Keeping farmers in business is good for everyone because it creates many jobs on and off the farm – including veterinarians, animal nutrition experts, feed and equipment suppliers, truck drivers, inspectors, processors, retailers and administrators – just to name a few! In fact, the dairy industry alone creates the equivalent of 178,000 full-time jobs and contributes $16 billion to Canada’s GDP. 

A Canadian farmer walking through a milking parlour
Jeroen Schalkwyk keeps a close eye on the dairy cows in the milking parlour at Lac La Nonne Dairy.

Foreign imports are limited to ensure Canadians have access to healthy, safe, homegrown food

From farm to fork, Canadian dairy, eggs and poultry meet some of the world’s most stringent standards. What’s more, the peace of mind that comes from supply management allows farmers to invest in forward-thinking practices and facilities to produce these high-quality products right here at home. This helps ensure Canadians won’t have the added worry of relying on imported products that might not meet the same high standards. 

Over the past year, COVID-19 made us realize how important a stable supply of homegrown food is during times of crisis, when access to our borders may be limited. The dairy sector’s agile response to challenges caused by the pandemic is just one example of how effective Canada’s system of supply management is.  

While it can seem complex at first, when you think about it, what supply management means for Canadians is quite simple: supply management makes sure farmers can feed their families and feed fellow Canadians, too. 

Learn more about supply management here