by SUSAN MANN
About 3,000 dairy farmers from across Canada hoofed it to Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday for a rally highlighting the government’s need to support the industry.
Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith said in a telephone interview he told the crowd that “actions speak louder than words. So even if they (the government) tell us they support supply management, if they showed us they supported supply management it would be more meaningful.”
The Canadian Milk Matters/World Milk Day rally was held to recognize the Canadian dairy industry’s contribution to the country’s economy, honour Canada’s supply management system and put a spotlight on several matters industry leaders want resolved. They include:
- compensation for impacts from the soon-to-be ratified Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement,
- Canadian processors’ use of imported diafiltered milk in cheese making that’s cutting into farmers’ incomes, and
- the need for a processor modernization fund to help processors upgrade aging and obsolete infrastructure.
Some of the farmers arrived on Parliament Hill in two tractor convoys – one that came from eastern Ontario and one from Quebec. Some farmers also bought cows. They were very popular with the public, Smith said.
“There were lots of thumbs up from people (the public) on the sidewalks,” Smith noted. “There was lots of support for what was happening. It was really quite a positive event.”
Similar regional events were also held Tuesday, according to a Dairy Farmers of Canada press release. One was in Regina and the other was in Prince Edward Island at the office of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
For its part, the federal government said in a press release it’s working on a response to dairy farmers’ concerns. After meeting with farmers, processors and regional agricultural associations from across Canada, the government has heard their views and is working to “develop a long-term strategy for the whole sector,” the release said.
The parliamentary secretaries for agriculture and international trade met with rally organizers Tuesday morning to continue those earlier consultations.
“Our goal is to improve the position of Canadian dairy farmers, help modernize the Canadian dairy industry, and ensure this critical industry can continue to grow and thrive in an ever-changing global economy,” the release said.
Smith said the government hasn’t told Dairy Farmers of Canada when it would release its plans on how it would be addressing farmers’ concerns. BF