By Tom Collins
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) is working on a policy that could suspend milk pickup if a dairy farmer has been charged by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA).
Discussions have been ongoing for about a year. The proposed policy would state that producers might be paid for only eight days of milk after being charged.
DFO director Nick Thurler said there will be checks and balances to make sure farmers can still receive money if charges are not legitimate. If a farmer is charged, he has to immediately contact a third-party expert — the DFO will provide a list — to come to the farm to see if the charge is legitimate. If the expert determines the charge is not reasonable, the farmer would continue to have his milk picked up.
“We won’t take a guy out of business,” said Thurler. “But there are going to be consequences if there is a real issue.”
If a farmer does lose the pickup and is later found not guilty, the DFO would reimburse the farmer for the missed pickups.
However, farmers are not charged very often, said Thurler, adding there are about 100 complaints a year but only four or five charges in the last couple of years. Thurler said most cases are resolved quickly. A six-year-old deal between the DFO and OSPCA states that a DFO field rep must accompany an OSPCA officer to investigate complaints.
This draft policy stems from the case in Chilliwack, British Columbia in 2014 where six farm workers received jail time for animal cruelty offences. The processor, Saputo, suspended milk pickup because of the bad publicity. Processors across Canada are demanding new rules so they can stop picking up milk from farms that have been charged with animal abuse.
While there is no timeline on when the draft policy would come into effect, Thurler believes it will go to the DFO’s policy meeting in the spring before the changes would begin.