Let’s grow this industry to its full potential

April 26th, 2016

On April 11, 2016 some members of our family had the opportunity to provide DFC’s Ottawa staff with our perspective of dairy’s current challenges and opportunities.

As we prepare our farm for the next generation to enter the industry, our support for supply management has only strengthened. The current plight of fellow dairy farmers worldwide clearly illustrates the results of production with no attention to marketing.

I have said many times the most important aspect of supply management is not tariff lines or plant allocation, it is our ability to effect change in an ever evolving market place. Today’s supply management model offers distinct benefits for all of our industry partners, farmers, consumers, processors and government.

The support our industry received during CETA and the TPP trade talks is evidence of the appreciation supply management receives from all partners in our industry and I challenge our critics to give us an example of a market model that is as sustainable as Canada’s supply management system.

As part of the current challenges, the rapid escalation of imported milk protein concentrate (MPC’s), this is my main concern. Ontario has announced an ingredient strategy which addresses the issue and I am hopeful we will soon have a National ingredient strategy. Past history has taught us all that it is not the path but the final destination that matters when we evaluate progress.

I also told staff why the proAction campaign matters. This initiative is a response to retail and consumer questions and it will provide National assurances on every level of production from milk quality to husbandry practices to environmental stewardship.

The marketing opportunities this will provide could be limitless both domestically and internationally. My concern however, is that as proAction unfolds some Canadian farmers may need to invest significant time and money to be compliant. That same compliance is not asked of our partners when the MPC’s which are imported through tariff technicalities with the support of the US Farm Bill and other creative subsidies.

I do have an issue of us going down the Boy Scout trail and our friends in retail and processing need to explain to Canadian farmers exactly how this double standard will be addressed.

We as an industry operate under a privileged marketing system envied by producers and governments around the world. The current world market collapse is exactly what results when the simplistic ideology of many of our critics comes to fruition.

The challenges I have outlined here are minor compared to the adjustments it has taken over the past 50 years to make our market model what it is today. We just saw a 6% increase in quota last year and that does not include the 11,000 tonnes of butter we have imported or the large volume of MPC’s displacing our milk production.

Butter is popular again! The renewed interest in dairy is bringing an opportunity to the industry. The health industry has finally confirmed what our grandmothers knew a century ago….that a balanced diet and active lifestyle can actually benefit from dairy.

We have all the pieces of the puzzle on the table and we know what has to be done. So let’s grow this industry to its full potential.

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