by SUSAN MANN
Dairy farmers from across Canada are piggybacking on an event established 15 years ago to recognize milk’s importance globally as a food, World Milk Day, to hold a rally in Ottawa highlighting the significance of the Canadian dairy industry.
World Milk Day is actually Wednesday but because yoga sessions are being held outside on Parliament Hill that day, the Canadian dairy rally will be on Thursday, June 2, says Isabelle Bouchard, Dairy Farmers of Canada communications and government relations director. “We didn’t want to disturb the yoga people.”
About 3,000 farmers from across Canada are projected to attend the rally, Bouchard says. “Every province will be represented.”
Some eastern Ontario and Quebec farmers will arrive by tractor. Bouchard says she doesn’t know if anyone plans to bring cows.
Canadian dairy farmers leaders along with Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith and Dairy Farmers of Ontario chair Ralph Dietrich will be speaking. The speeches begin about 1:15 p.m.
Although the Canadian dairy event has been called a “protest” in some news reports, Bouchard says it’s not.
Graham Lloyd, Dairy Farmers of Ontario general counsel and communications director, says Ontario wouldn’t support the event if it were a protest.
“Ontario is only supporting a rally to highlight the importance of the Canadian dairy industry to the Canadian economy,” he explains. “Ontario does not support a protest.”
Bouchard says the rally is being held to recognize the Canadian dairy industry, honour the country’s great system of supply management, and put a spotlight on several matters industry leaders want resolved. The dairy industry needs government action to ensure it’s “healthy and strong in the future.”
Bouchard says the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s executive met with federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay recently to talk about the compensation farmers need as a result of the increased cheese access Canada granted Europe under the Canada-European Union Economic Trade Agreement. Talks were also held on diafiltered milk imports and the impact they’re having in eating away a portion of Canadian dairy farmers’ incomes.
“The feeling out of this meeting was the minister and his team understood where we were coming from and why,” she says.
Dairy Farmers say the solution to the diafiltered milk imports is for the federal government to enforce the Canadian cheese compositional standards. (See Better Farming story April 20, 2016).
The government now has all the information it needs “for it to figure out what type of long-term resolution it wants to propose,” she explains.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization established World Milk Day in 2001 to highlight milk’s importance as a food around the world. BF