WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2017 - Canada’s foreign minister said her country was committed to protecting its supply management system in the NAFTA negotiations that open this week, signaling that Canada intends to take a hard line with the U.S. industry. 

Chrystia Freeland on Monday outlined Canada’s core objectives in the negotiations, which included protecting its “system of supply management,” one of several issues that she said “Canadians deem key to our national interest “ 

Later, she told reporters that the United States exports about five times more dairy products to Canada than it imports. U.S. producers are demanding that Canada end a new pricing policy that essentially blocks imports of ultrafiltered U.S. milk.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, fired back in a statement that said Canada “cannot be allowed to maintain a system that establishes one of the highest milk prices in the world within its borders while using world markets as a dumping ground for a huge increase in its production.”

The first round of negotiations on revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement begin Wednesday and run through Sunday.

Mulhern said Canada’s Class 7 milk pricing policy “is designed to undercut world market prices and unfairly dump Canada’s surplus milk at the expense of the United States and other exporters.” 

While Canada continues to protect its dairy market from foreign competition, he said, the U.S. government “relies on exporting its products to global customers to a greater degree than ever before.”

Meanwhile, 55 deans and administrators of public university agriculture schools urged the Trump administration on Monday to protect U.S. farm exports in the negotiations. 

In a letter to administration officials, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the educators said that exports accounted for 33 percent of farm income last year and that shipments to Canada and Mexico have increased fourfold

"As you know, the United States is the world’s largest exporter of farm products with agriculture exports accounting for 33 percent of U.S farm income in 2016," the letter reads, adding that agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled under NAFTA. 

“Because of the importance of agricultural exports to both the farm and U.S. economies, we, the deans/administrators of our nation’s public and land-grant colleges of agriculture, strongly support the continued robust export of U. S. agricultural products to Mexico and Canada facilitated by NAFTA,” the letter adds.

“We also urge our trade negotiators to seek opportunities to expand such trade in your upcoming discussions with representatives from Canada and Mexico. Agricultural exports are critical to rural America and the whole country.”