First round of dairy farmer payments unveiled

Canadian dairy farmers will be paid approximately $315 per kilogram of quota in the first year of mitigation payments that the federal government will make for concessions in two trade agreements.

The payments come from $345 million in federal funds earmarked to compensate dairy farmers for market access traded to Europe through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and to members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In total, $1.75 billion is to be paid to Canada’s 11,000 dairy farmers over an eight-year period.

Alberta Milk chair Tom Kootstra provided the compensation figure to dairy farmers in the southern Alberta region Oct. 29 during the first zone meeting leading up to the organization’s general meeting in Edmonton Nov. 19-21.

“The first year they’re committed to compensating the dairy industry to the tune of $345 million and unlike the first mitigation under CETA, this is not a first come, first served,” said Kootstra.

Part of the original compensation for CETA involved programs to help farmers update equipment and modernize operations, and funds went to farmers who quickly applied to access that money.

As for the coming payment, producers will receive a letter this month giving direction on how to register for the payment, Kootstra added. They can choose to receive the payment this year or by March 30, 2020, and in any case should respond to the government letter no later than March 1, 2020.

Producers were also advised that long-time Alberta Milk general manager Mike Southwood will retire at the end of November. He is the only general manager the organization has ever had and “his integrity is unquestionable,” said Kootstra.

“His work ethic is exemplary.”

Alberta Milk has hired Freda Molenkamp-Oudman to replace Southwood as of Dec. 1. She is a former general manager of the Alberta Agriculture Products Marketing Council and a former assistant deputy minister for Alberta Agriculture in the strategy, planning and governance division.

Kootstra told producers that results of the recent federal election will require continued strong lobby efforts on the part of dairy producers. His mention that People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier lost his seat in the election was greeted with producer applause. Bernier had advocated that Canada’s supply management system, under which the dairy industry functions, be abolished.

In contrast, Kootstra noted, all other federal parties supported supply management in their election campaigns.

At the provincial government level, Kootstra said Alberta Milk was active on several files, including consultations on the new farm freedom and safety act, red tape reduction and rural crime response.

Further to the latter, a workshop is planned at the annual meeting to advise dairy farmers on what to do and how to respond should animal activists appear on their properties.

“Even at that Breakfast on the Dairy Farm in Millet this summer they were present and it’s a growing issue and we need to be equipped on how to deal with them going forward,” Kootstra said, in reference to one of several public events organized by Alberta Milk each year on dairy farms.

“There are some strategies that we can all take home. One is to put up ‘no trespassing’ signs. We can ensure that our buildings are locked, be diligent about who we allow onto our property.”

Alberta Milk will also help dairy farmers complete background checks on potential employees.

As another initiative, Alberta Milk and the other western Canadian milk boards are exploring options for product recall insurance. An umbrella policy could potentially cover an incident where a load of milk forces a product recall.

Kootstra said the four boards working on the project have received three quotes on such a policy from insurance companies but details remain to be finalized.

Among those details is whether premium assessments would be a flat rate per farm or a rate based on farm size.

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