OSGOODE — With American milk set to come across the border in even greater volumes than before, producers and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario alike agree it’s time to sell consumers on proAction.
The dairy farm inspection and animal care program came into effect across the country last year. Billed as necessary for consumer confidence in the industry, most producers in Eastern Ontario have managed the extra paperwork and inspections without too much difficulty. The program is similar to Canada Quality Milk, producers said, so most farmers were ready for proAction.
Osgoode-area dairy farmer Steve Velthuis didn’t agree, at least for larger dairy farms. “It’s getting to the point where the bigger farms almost need a full-time person to keep track of everything,” Velthuis said. Overlapping regulations between CQM and proAction were a frustration: “Everybody wants their documentation.”
But the bigger frustration for Velthuis is two-fold: Do consumers even care? And how can farmers afford to do these quality programs when the milk price is getting hurt by international trade deals?
Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s CEO and general manager Graham Lloyd told a group of dairy producers — at a meeting in Winchester about the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal — that the DFO needs to do a better job selling consumers on the quality of Canadian milk. “We haven’t done a good job selling proAction. We need to sell it better.”
Morewood-area dairy farmer Doug MacGregor agreed that marketing proAction should definitely be part of the milk marketing scheme, but also wondered if something more basic might be better. “You don’t have to venture far into a city, even one like Winchester, to find people who’ve never been on a farm or seen a cow. I don’t know if proAction info is what they need.”
MacGregor added that meeting program standards was straightforward, since they’re so similar to CQM.
Most producers were in the same boat. Of over 1,500 inspections done by the DFO from Sept. 1 of last year to July 31 this year, only seven producers were penalized.