By Owen Roberts for FCC Express
Canada’s dairy sector is reacting with cautious appreciation after Ottawa offered two major support programs last week worth $350 million to help the industry prepare for increased trade with Europe.
The first program, worth $250 million over five years, will provide targeted contributions to help Canadian dairy farmers update farm technologies and systems and improve productivity. The announcement specifically cited equipment updates such as robotic milkers, automated feeding systems and herd management tools.
For the second program, Ottawa will make $100 million available over four years to help processors modernize their operations, improve efficiency and productivity and diversify their products to pursue new market opportunities.
Agriculture and Agri-food minister Lawrence MacAulay called the programs a show of support for supply management and for the country’s dairy sector.
“Canada’s dairy producers and processors are vital to the prosperity and clean growth of our nation. They create jobs and offer high-quality products for Canadian consumers,” he said.
On the farm, the news of the funding was welcomed by dairy producer Tim May of Mayhaven farm who runs a 40-cow family operation near Guelph.
“As our small farm continues to grow, I am constantly looking for ways to adapt and improve our operation so that it’s viable for the next generation,” he says. “These programs will go a long way in keeping the tradition of the small, local farm alive in Canada.”
May says the funding will allow producers like him to invest in technologies so they can maintain their status of having one of the safest milk supplies in the world, while staying proactive with animal welfare concerns.
“We have been hurt by past trade negotiations, but this funding is a good start in repairing the damage,” he says. “It will definitely benefit both the farmer and the community as a whole.”
Likewise, Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith called Ottawa’s announcement “a significant step in demonstrating [its] commitment to supply management, and to the continued innovation and growth of Canada’s dairy sector.”
But Smith’s praise was tempered with caution.
“To ensure the continued sustainability and viability of supply management, there is still work to be done and the government has a significant role to play,” he said.
Likewise, Bruno Letendre, president of Les Producteurs de lait du Québec and member of the DFC boards, said he was concerned several other European trade-related issues remain, such as Canada’s domestic regulations and border measures to help the sector.
He said he was hopeful the government would balance the program funding with “concrete action to stop further damage to Canadian dairy farmers.”