Campaign fights back | Media full of distorted and twisted information, says DFC president
Dairy Farmers of Canada has launched an aggressive campaign to confront its critics in the face of incessant demands that supply management be weakened or abandoned as a trade liberalization concession.
Last week during its annual policy conference, the organization an-nounced the launch of a new website at www.yourmilk.ca that will give the dairy farmer side of complaints about subsidies, other country performance, protectionism and its effect on trade negotiations.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Island dairy producer and new DFC president Wally Smith used his first major speech to the organization to aggressively lay out the reasons the industry must fight back.
“If we don’t tell our story, we know that others will and when others tell our story, we see what happens,” he said Feb. 2. “It is distorted. It is twisted. It’s full of misinformation, either intentionally or because they don’t have all the facts.”
Smith’s main targets were the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which launched a “free your milk” campaign last autumn, and media that he sees as ideological enemies of the system and tell only one side of the story.
He told a receptive audience that the critics never mention the stability supply management brings, the innovation and investment dairy farmers bring to their farms, the leading role they play in animal welfare practices and environmental on-farm programs.
And then there is the issue of taxpayer subsidies that critics never address.
“We don’t get any government handouts,” said Smith.
“In fact, our industry contributes $3 billion in taxes to the three levels of government. At a time of government austerity, we don’t have to worry as dairy farmers about our programs because we don’t have any.”
In contrast, he said American dairy farmers receive more than that in government subsidies to keep their industry viable during turbulent instability.
Smith told DFC delegates that the industry and the supply management system will survive because they have the overwhelming support of involved farmers and political leaders.
He told the story of calls to supply management leaders from agriculture minister Gerry Ritz and trade minister Ed Fast during the height of media frenzy against supply management.
They called “to assure us so that we can assure you that the government position had not changed,” said Smith.
Still, when DFC delegates spent Jan. 31 on a Parliament Hill lobby day, delegates reported back that fully one-third of MPs, many of whom are rookies from Quebec and Ontario, had not heard the supply management side of the story.
He argued that bipartisan political support, united farmers and a strong information campaign to counter the critics will win the day.
“We can weather this turbulence.”