STRATFORD — When Dunnville dairy farmer Jerry Huigen publicly dumped 30,000 litres of over-quota milk at the end of January, it inspired another Ontario dairy-farm family to collect almost as many signatures on a petition decrying the waste.
John and Anna Van Dyk don’t like to see milk go to waste. Their online petition was closing in on 30,000 signatures — towards a goal of 35,000 — during the second week of March. It calls on Canada’s milk marketing boards to take “a new approach” and “eliminate the option” of dumping milk, a practice he described as “completely unacceptable” given current socio-economic conditions.
The Van Dyks run a 140-head milking herd near Stratford. And like Jerry Huigen, John Van Dyk comes from Dutch dairy roots.
“In 60 years, we’ve never dumped over-quota milk,” Van Dyk told Farmers Forum. “That’s always been a ‘no’ for us. Some people have gotten used to doing that, and I just think that mentality has to change,” he says, describing milk dumping as a “bad habit.”
He pointed out: “We’re in a supply-management system, and that’s why supply management was created, so we wouldn’t have this dumping of milk.”
He suggests the problem can be solved by imposing a penalty on farmers that dump milk and by waiving the 20 cents per litre trucking charge that currently applies on over-quota milk that is picked up. With these reforms, any over-quota milk making its way into the system could be used to lower the required output of all dairy farms, without dropping their milk cheques. Van Dyk explains: “If guys want to ship 10 % over their quota and not get paid for it, I’ll take it. Because that’s 10 % I don’t have to ship, and I’ll still get paid for it.”
Some additional flexibility could also be built into Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s long-standing food-bank donation program, he adds.
The bad publicity from Huigen’s viral social media video compels the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Dairy Farmers of Canada to deal with the issue, according to Van Dyk, “because we’ve lost a lot of consumer confidence, and I think it’s because of that (milk-dumping) incident…. Consumers don’t understand it, and I don’t understand it myself.”
He also notes that tax dollars are going directly into dairy farms now, as compensation for lost domestic market share in the U.S. and E.U. trade deals. And he argues that makes the industry even more accountable to consumers.
He fears that People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier will leverage the Huigen footage to score points against supply management in the next federal election — possibly in prime time on the main debate stage — unless the overseers of the system make changes to do away with milk dumping before then.
Van Dyk says he hasn’t received blowback from the DFO — or any response — though he concedes the organization may not appreciate the petition. “I think they were hoping the issue would just go away. To me, that’s just not responsible, but I still hope they come up with something.”
He has also reached out to Dairy Farmers of Canada President Pierre Lampron in a letter but hasn’t heard back yet. “Seriously, no one has given me an answer on why we should continue to allow (milk dumping),” he says.
The petition will stay up until someone provides that answer, he says. You can find the petition online at change.org. Search under the name Anna Van Dyk.