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The need for the dairy sector to speak with one voice and get in front of issues to tell their positive stories on how they are making an impact on climate change, food security and economic growth was a central theme at Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 11-12.

David Wiens, newly elected president of DFC, told an audience of more than 200 dairy farmers that the industry can do a lot “if we put our energies together in the same direction.”

“Now is the time to act together. It's essential that we bridge the thousands of kilometres between regions and come together in a concerted way," said Wiens. "This will best position our industry to face challenges and seize every opportunity that becomes available.”

DFC’s outgoing president, Pierre Lampron, took the time to reflect on his three terms in office, pointing out that when he began his mandate in 2017, “It was important for me to bring the industry together so that we could work together and speak with one voice.”


Rural Canada important to economic growth

Speaking about the importance of rural Canada to overall economic growth in a fireside chat, Coalition for a Better Future co-chairs the Honourable Lisa Raitt and the Honourable Anne McLellan pointed to very specific challenges, such as getting access to the workforce and high-speed internet. The discussion included how the political dynamic can often be centred on urban Canada while expectations remain high on rural Canadian agriculture to ensure food safety for our country and leverage it for economic prosperity through exports.

That expectation doesn’t always necessarily come with the resources from government to succeed. McLellan, a former Liberal deputy prime minister, noted that infrastructure conversations almost always centre around urban needs, and as a result, rural Canada’s realities are often misrepresented in political parties’ policies and platform commitments.

“Rural and small-town Canada needs to be able to be an important part of the economic growth agenda for the future,” she said. “One of the tragic truths of politics is that parties and leaders go where the votes are.”

When asked how to get the government to recognize the importance of rural Canada to the country’s economy, Raitt, a former Conservative Natural Resources, Transport and Labour minister, said it is important to continue talking about positive stories, educate about [our] realities, and seek opportunities for the dairy sector by working with all levels of government and your local representative.

Both former ministers emphasized the need to work together on policies supporting the dairy sector, as that will bolster the industry’s long-term success and ensure Canadians have a secure, steady supply of food.

Looking globally for net zero ideas

An international perspective of net zero was offered by Sanne Griffioen-Roose, Ph.D. The director of farm sustainability at FrieslandCampina in the Netherlands, she is responsible for the farm programs and goals on climate and nature. In the Netherlands, dairy farmers get a guaranteed price but can receive additional revenue based on their reduced carbon footprints.

In a presentation titled "Sustainability, the Consumer, and the Future of Dairy Processing," Griffioen-Roose shared some observations from Dutch farmers. Farmers affiliated with the company represent 25%-30% of agricultural lands in the Netherlands, and the tactics they rely on include pasture farming – nine out of every 10 farmers under FrieslandCampina raise cows this way – and keeping carbon credits “in the chain” as much as possible.

The AGM also featured presentations by social media star and dairy farmer Tara Vander Dussen on why dairy farmers need to harness the power of social media to correct facts about the dairy industry, promote the innovation taking place on farms and connect with consumers at a personal level; Emerging Ag President Robynne Anderson, who spoke about engaging in the agricultural and environment policy space; and Dairy Distillery Founder Omid McDonald, who spoke about the potential for using dairy “waste” like excess milk sugars to make products at his Almonte, Ontario, distillery – where he already makes a popular product called Vodkow.

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) is the national policy, lobbying and promotional organization representing Canadian dairy producers. DFC strives to create stable conditions for the dairy sector in our country. It also seeks to maintain policies that promote the sustainability of Canadian dairy production and promote dairy products and their health benefits. Visit DFC’s website for more information.