By Connor Lynch
WOODSTOCK — A year into proAction, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s new standards for animal care and farm maintenance, most Western Ontario farmers are none too bothered.
But the program does hold Ontario farms to a high standard, and with American milk set to come over the border, farmers say the DFO needs to make sure consumers understand that.
Since farmers already had to meet the standards of the Canadian Quality Milk Program, a federal program, living up to proAction wasn’t much more work.
Adam Garfat, who farms at Woodstock, said he thinks that Ontario dairy farms need a program like proAction, even if it can be redundant. “I’m not sure it’s all the ball of wax it’s wound up to be, but it’s something we have to do for consumer confidence.”
But he’s not sure there are enough consumers that even know it’s happening.
One Huron County dairy farmer, who asked not to be named, said that the requirements of the program can seem ludicrous considering the market access given up last month in the USMCA deal. But with that access, Ontario’s niche against the Americans is quality. “It’s not a bad thing to have the program. It’s a good thing that we can say, ‘Look, our animals are well taken care of. We produce quality milk with no growth hormones.’ We just have to sell the consumer on that as much as we can.”
He added he’s still concerned that cheaper American imports will win the day. But on the other hand, “We do have the quality. We just have to make the consumer really aware of it.”
Most producers had an easy time meeting the standards. Of over 1,500 inspections conducted by the DFO from Sept. 1 of last year to July 31 this year, only seven producers were penalized.