Tours educate about supply managed sectors

PONOKA, Alta. — It could have been called Supply Management 101.

The growing opposition to supply management recently prompted a group of producers and officials from supply managed industries to invite reporters and politicians to tour their farms and learn what their businesses are all about.

“I think it’s very misunderstood in a lot of circles,” said Susan Gal, general manager of Egg Farmers of Alberta.

“We were hoping to educate some of these folks here about supply management and some of the benefits.”

Gal said one of the biggest fallacies she wanted to dispel is that consumers could buy their eggs, cheese, milk, chicken and turkey cheaper than they can now if supply management disappeared.

The amount of supply managed food is equal to the demand, she said.

“Consumers are kidding themselves if they think long term the price would go down.”

She said farmers would join their counterparts from other farming sectors on the roller-coaster of international markets without supply management .

Members of Alberta Turkey Producers, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Egg Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Chicken Producers and Alberta Milk joined to welcome politicians and reporters into a dairy barn and a broiler chicken barn.

Strathcona MLA Jacquie Fenske said the amount of time, effort and money spent on safety, biosecurity and livestock comfort has changed dramatically over the years since she grew up on a dairy farm.

She said the tour was an opportunity for her to talk to producers about supply management and other agricultural issues, including the benefits and pitfalls of unpasteurized milk.

“I have had interesting conversations over and beyond what we are seeing,” said Fenske.

“Seeing is different than hearing.”

Edmonton MLA Steven Young said he jumped at the chance to come on the tour.

He had never been to a dairy or broiler operation and was amazed at the food safety standards required by the industries.

He said the tour helped him understand the complexities of the industries and gave him a greater understanding of food safety

“I am certainly reassessed.”

Young said pure economists may not advocate supply management, but pure economics don’t take into account food safety, biosecurity other food assurances.

“At the base level, we have to have confidence in the food supply, and that is something we can’t compromise on.”

Karlee Conway, communications co-ordinator with Alberta Milk, said many people are confused about how supply management works.

The tour was designed to show people the barns and give visitors an opportunity to talk to producers to gain a better understanding of the system.

Mike Southwood, general manager of Alberta Milk, said the supply managed sectors wanted to show visitors that there is more than just beef in the province.

“We need to demonstrate the value of our industry to the rural economy,” he said. “We wanted to show what we contribute to agriculture.”

Dairy farmer Albert Kamps said it’s important for people to take a closer look at supply managed farms and learn more about the industry.

“It’s good for people to see what’s happening at the farm level,” he said. “It’s good to build relationships with these folks.”

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