Dairy producers receive good news at annual meeting

Manitoulin/West Sudbury Dairy Producers committee president Keith Emery pened the group’s annual meeting held at the Little Current United Church. photo by Michale Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT – Dairy Farmers of Ontario Zone O service representative Jean Guy Seguin came to the annual Manitoulin/West Sudbury Dairy Producers committee meeting held at the Little Current United Church Hall recently bearing certificates of excellence for local producers.

“I have a gold certificate for Brad Wilkin and general certificates for Alex Anstice and family and the Morrell family on the North Shore,” said Mr. Seguin. “That’s three out of six producers.”

The service representative noted that “there are no issues, no complaints.” In fact, Northern Ontario producers are among the best in the province, with a higher than average number of certificates being awarded to producers in the North.

Other items of good news are that processors are investing $700 million in planned construction and that nearly three billion litres of milk are produced on 3,410 farms with $2.4 billion in farmgate revenue. There are 72 Ontario milk processors and a total of 220 milk trucks that conduct over 285 routes per day, largely without incident.

But Dairy Farmers of Ontario board member Steve Runnalls cautioned that dairy producers are moving into a changed environment, with trade impacts, the issue of balancing existing demand with new processing investments, the need for agility in domestic production management, the rise of dairy alternatives, as well as addressing changing consumer needs and tastes and the continued targeting of farmers by animal rights activists, particularly those closer to urban centres, all bringing challenges to the industry.

To offset the impact of trade issues, the Dairy Direct Payment Program has been instituted with $1.75 billion in financial compensation aimed at mitigating losses. “About $345 million is to be distributed in the first year,” said Mr. Runnalls. “That will be based on your August 31, 2019 quota holdings.” Mr. Runnalls cautioned that the deadline to apply in order to receive compensation is March 1.

“Producers who have registered by the December 13 deadline and who have not received compensation should call 877-245-4682 with your name, phone number, province, producer number or anti-phishing verification number,” he said.

Mr. Runnalls noted that farmgate milk prices will increase by 1.93 percent as of February 1 and said there is an expected $1.43 per hectolitre increase in the Ontario blend price. 

A new CEO, Cheryl Smith, joined the DFO in August. Mr. Runnalls described the new organization head as “passionate about innovation and opportunities for growth.”

Heather MacGregor is the new communications director and she will be working with the board and Shikha Jain on government relations. 

FedNor’s Arik Theisjmeijer, initiatives officer for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada delivered a talk on what role FedNor can play in the Island’s agricultural industries. These supports range from a number of specialized loan programs, some direct funding and indirect funding such as cooperative development support. However the FedNor rep was firm in pointing out that “we don’t provide grant money.” That being said, the organization does have an interest in doing more work in the agricultural sector and works to expand the market for the region’s agricultural products.