Dire times for dairy farm­ers

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ste-Ed­widge-de-Clifton

Cana­dian dairy farm­ers are an­gry, and it’s easy to see why. They have been los­ing in­come steadily for sev­eral years thanks to the al­most lim­it­less im­por­ta­tion of milk pro­tein con­cen­trates and other dairy in­gre­di­ents, most no­tably di­afil­tered milk.

Philip Stirn­i­mann is a dairy farmer in SteEd­widge-de-Clifton and the president of the Coat­i­cook Union des Pro­duc­teurs Agri­coles (UPA). “The an­nual loss in rev­enue to Cana­dian dairy farm­ers be­cause of the im­por­ta­tions of milk pro­tein con­cen­trates and di­afil­tered milk from the United States has been es­ti­mated at $200 mil­lion,” said Mr. Stirn­i­mann in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal.

Many Cana­dian dairy prod­ucts are now be­ing made us­ing in­creas­ing amounts of these con­cen­trated milk pro­tein prod­ucts in­stead of fresh Cana­dian milk and Cana­dian milk pro­tein con­cen­trates. The sit­u­a­tion got worse, in 2012, when a new form of milk pro­tein con­cen­trate, di­afil­tered milk, be­gan to be im­port- ed into Canada from the United States. “When the di­afil­tered milk comes to the bor­der, it’s not classified as milk so it comes in with­out lim­its, with­out tar­iffs,” ex­plained the dairy farmer. But once in the coun­try, di­afil­tered milk gets a more ‘palat­able’ clas­si­fi­ca­tion from the Cana­dian Food In­spec­tion Agency (CFIA). The CFIA clas­si­fies the highly pro­cessed sub­stance as ‘milk’ when used in the pro­duc­tion of cheese and yo­gurt. “Di­afil­tered milk is not even used in the United States. It is a prod­uct that was made just to pass the bor­der. Big cheese and yo­gurt pro­duc­ing com­pa­nies in Canada use di­afil­tered milk a lot,” he added.

Be­sides hav­ing a dis­rup­tive ef­fect on Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem and the in­come of dairy farm­ers, the increased im­por­ta­tion of di­afil­tered milk is also af­fect­ing the qual­ity of our dairy prod­ucts. “We have higher stan­dards in Canada, bet­ter norms re­gard­ing the prod­uct and the en­vi­ron­ment. They use hor­mones in milk pro­duc­tion in the United States, but Cana­dian milk is hor­mone-free.”

Philip, whose fa­ther came to Canada from Switzer­land in 1978 to start a dairy farm, runs a large op­er­a­tion with one hun­dred and sixty milk­ing cows. The av­er­age Que­bec dairy farm milks forty cows. “I fig­ure that I have about $10,000 less in rev­enues per month. But all the ex­penses for farm- ers, like ma­chin­ery, the ser­vic­ing of the ma­chin­ery, em­ployee salaries, and mu­nic­i­pal taxes have all gone up. Dairy farms can be worth a lot but they have very high ex­penses. Last year, af­ter farm­ers made all their pay­ments, there wasn’t much left,” said the Coat­i­cook UPA president.

The num­ber of dairy farms be­ing sold in the Coat­i­cook MRC has increased in the last five years. “There is also uncer­tainty among the dairy farm­ers be­cause of the TPP (Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship) deal. Every time we have uncer­tainty in the dairy sec­tor there is sell­ing. Some get out of the dairy busi­ness and go into large crop farm­ing. It’s not just older farm­ers that are sell­ing, but younger peo­ple who are dis­cour­aged.”

Mr. Stirn­i­mann be­lieves that Cana­di­ans have a “role to play as con­sumers” to help protect Cana­dian dairy farm­ers and all they bring to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. “They should find out what’s in the dairy prod­ucts that they are con­sum­ing.” If you’d like to make sure the cheese, yo­gurt or ice cream that you’re eat­ing is made from Cana­dian milk, look for the ‘100 % Cana­dian milk’ cow sym­bol on your prod­ucts. Fresh milk and cream sold in Canada is al­ways 100 % Cana­dian.

With one hun­dred and ninety-three dairy farms in the Coat­i­cook MRC, it’s not sur­pris­ing to see the ‘100 % Cana­dian milk’ sym­bol on the ice cream and cheese prod­ucts of the Lai­terie de Coat­i­cook, this year cel­e­brat­ing its 75th an­niver­sary.

Photo courtesy

Philip Stirn­i­mann runs a dairy farm in Ste-Ed­widge-de-Clifton and is the president of the Coat­i­cook UPA.

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