Sustainability’s role in building a robust, modern Canadian dairy industry for the future was a prevailing theme at Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) 2024 Annual Policy Conference (APC). Many speakers celebrated the progress of farmers while helping explain what the dairy sector can expect in the years to come.

Perspectives on sustainability a key takeaway from DFC’s Annual Policy Conference

Addressing a group of engaged delegates at DFC’s APC in Ottawa, Ontario, this past February, Rory Christie, a third-generation dairy farmer from Scotland and the founder of the Milk Suppliers Association – a cooperative of 131 Scottish dairy farmers – presented perspectives on sustainability from his region. He stressed the importance of being proactive in reducing and offsetting emissions.

“I do believe if we do not change, we will be changed,” said Christie, noting farmers must change the narrative and show they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

These solutions to lowering greenhouse gases (GHGs) are “extremely capital intense,” he said, making it imperative that the costs not be absorbed by farmers. In Scotland, the pressures to address climate change come on top of other challenges to the dairy industry, including succession planning and the impact of market deregulation.

“I would say Canada has everything that the UK has lost in terms of farm market deregulation,” he said. “Fight for what you’ve got.”


Cristine Laforest, general manager and CEO of Groupe Bel Canada, presented a point of view from one of the world’s biggest dairy processors. She said farmers and manufacturers can both play a significant role in promoting global food security and sustainable agriculture while still achieving profitability for the dairy sector.

Laforest stressed that profitability and responsibility are intertwined. Outlining the company’s corporate social responsibility policies, she noted agriculture accounts for one-third of all global carbon dioxide emissions.

“It is our responsibility as a committed food player to develop new ways to look at the problem and bring new solutions as well,” she said.

Helene Morissette, vice president of corporate responsibility for Saputo Inc., echoed these sentiments, and noted there is a growing demand for science-based targets and GHG data from retailers and restaurants. This is having a “domino effect” on dairy suppliers.

“We’re getting pressure from customers, not just for data – they’re asking us to commit,” she said, adding some food service customers have made it clear they will “question the relationship” if they don’t see that commitment. As a publicly traded company, Morissette said there is also pressure from investors to demonstrate sustainable practices and show progress – and that there is “reputational risk” in failing to do so.

Morissette went on to explain there are other reasons to embrace measures to transition to more sustainable practices, including the fact that agriculture will be less severely affected by climate change if we all succeed in slowing its impacts.

“The cost of adapting to climate change is more expensive than the cost of transitioning,” she said.

New carbon market toolkit now available to farmers

At the APC, DFC unveiled a toolkit for dairy farmers looking to enter carbon markets. These trading systems can potentially generate revenue in a way that complements the current suite of best management practices on the way to net zero by 2050. As farmers reduce, capture or lower emissions, they can also create opportunities to accrue carbon credits to be traded on carbon markets. 

In this toolkit, farmers can read more about what these trading systems entail and how they can participate in them. For more information on how to get started and whether carbon markets are a good fit for your farm, visit DFC's Farmer Resources Hub.

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.