by SUSAN MANN
Dairy Farmers of Canada is looking at a way for the industry to uniformly deliver a range of on-farm programs across the country.
They are: milk quality, animal welfare, biosecurity, traceability, environment and sustainability, and food safety. The project is called the ProAction Initiative.
Guy Seguin, project manager with Dairy Farmers of Canada, outlined DFC’s proposal at the Dairy Farmers of Ontario annual meeting Wednesday in Toronto. He says the objective is to “implement single, national, credible, practical on-farm programs to address societal demands on dairy farming and to support the Canadian branding of milk through the 100 per cent Canadian milk program.”
The question is: “do we want to integrate these programs uniformly; the same way in every province?” he says.
Currently provinces deliver programs, which results in differences in some details across the country. For example, under the Canadian Quality Milk on-farm food safety program, time temperature recorders are required in some provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, while in others they’re not. Some provinces, such as Ontario, have penalties for non-compliance, while others, such as Quebec, have incentives along with penalties, he explains.
Seguin questioned why the food safety program differs so much from one province to another and asked farmers if they have the appetite to do the other programs uniformly.
Seguin says as of this month, 55 per cent of farmers across Canada are CQM registered. In Ontario, where program implementation began in 2011, it’s about 30 per cent, while some provinces already have 100 per cent of their farmers registered, including Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
While CQM, started in 1999, is one of the best on-farm food safety programs in the world, it won’t be implemented on every farm in Canada until 2015, he says.
“That to me is a timeline that today is to be questioned.”
Seguin says as part of the Growing Forward 2, the national agricultural policy framework which replaces the current framework this year, the federal government talks about programs to help industry develop assurance systems, such as food safety and traceability, to meet consumer and market demands. The various programs the dairy industry is talking about delivering uniformly across Canada “are right in line with the federal government. We’re on the same page.”
The ProAction Initiative programs will eventually be introduced on Canadian farms but “do we want to implement them exactly the same way in every province?” he asks.
Dairy farmers will be consulted, he says, while Dairy Farmers of Canada will vote on whether or not to support the ProAction Initiative in July.
DFO general manager and CEO Peter Gould says the ProAction programs should be mandatory for farmers unlike the way the CQM program was first introduced. Gould says in a number of provinces that program was originally voluntary “with a view that a larger proportion of producers would do it voluntarily.” But later when farmers didn’t voluntarily sign up it was made mandatory.
“We never did that (make the program voluntary) in Ontario,” he says, noting introducing CQM voluntary initially was a “bad idea.”
During a question period after Seguin’s talk, Alain Jaquemet of the Stormont Dairy Producer Committee says he is somewhat tired of being proactive. “The day you give me $600 (per cow) to let my cows go outside, I think everybody in this room is going to sign up.”
Jaquemet says if farmers stopped being so proactive “maybe the government will help us.” He also pointed out that in some countries around the world, such as Switzerland, the government financially assists farmers with programs, such as animal welfare.
Seguin says producers must decide if they want to support the ProAction plan. But “waiting for the government to do something is always a dangerous thing.” BF