by SUSAN MANN
Ontario’s dairy famers could receive all general mail from their marketing organization electronically by November 2014.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario is currently studying the switch to electronic correspondence from mail delivery, delegates to this year’s spring policy conference in Alliston were told.
Bill Mitchell, assistant communications director, says the change wouldn’t include the Milk Producer magazine initially nor correspondence related to specific farms, such as quality or quota notices, which would still be sent by regular mail. There is currently an electronic version of the magazine online.
One barrier to the plan is not all dairy farmers have Internet access. “We don’t have a precise number at this point,” Mitchell says of the number of farmers with Internet. But about 60 per cent of Ontario’s 4,107 dairy farmers actually log on to the DFO website to, for example, participate in the quota exchange or get quality results from their own personalized password-protected section. Another barrier is high speed Internet service isn’t widely available in rural Ontario.
“We’re talking to producers about how this will work,” he says. The organization’s goals are to come up with a way to deliver electronic general mail that works for producers and is effective.
DFO’s website was launched in 1995 and the organization has been gradually making more information available electronically. “The direction has been to provide it electronically for those people that want it because it’s faster, more readily available” and cheaper.
Mitchell says they haven’t fully analyzed the feedback from conference delegates, but preliminary results show 91 per cent use the DFO website three times a week or more, while 86 per cent said DFO should move to electronic communications for general mail by 2014 or sooner.
DFO will also be looking at providing apps for smart phone or tablet users.
In other news from the spring policy conference, DFO noted that six people didn’t sign up for direct deposit of their milk cheques into their bank accounts by the Feb. 1 deadline. By the time of the final payment, Feb. 15, for January milk shipments, DFO couldn’t deposit the money for those farmers. The organization has kept the producers’ money and will deposit it when they sign up.
Mitchell says the number has dwindled to four. Those farmers have now missed a second month of milk payments. One farmer didn’t sign up because he was planning to exit the industry while one has since signed up.
DFO is working with the four farmers to get them signed up. Mitchell says he doesn’t know why the remaining four haven’t yet done so. There has been some communications with the board. “I’m not sure what sort of concerns they have that have led to this,” Mitchell says. BF