By Julie Ingwersen and Rod Nickel
MADISON, Wisconsin/ST. CLAUDE, Manitoba (Reuters) – Minnesota farmer Paul Fritsche can no longer afford health insurance as he struggles to sustain a dairy farm that has been in his family for nearly a century.
With U.S. milk prices in the fourth year of a slump due to chronic oversupply, Fritsche, 58, is unsure whether he will be able to pass his 30-cow farm onto his sons and grandsons.
“Do you pull the plug? We’ve been at it for 90 years,” he said. “I’d hate to lose that.”
The dairy industry was a sticking point in the contentious renegotiations of the free trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that concluded last month.
U.S. President Donald Trump demanded concessions from the protected Canadian dairy industry and said on Twitter that Canada was hurting U.S. farmers with high tariffs. After Canada gave some ground, Trump claimed a big victory and said farmers would have more export options.
But Canada opened less than 4 percent of its dairy market to U.S. farmers – a concessions unlikely to make much of a dent in U.S. oversupply or improve the lot of farmers such as Fritsche, producers on both sides of the border say.