“Unnerving” criticism can’t shake confidence
These are good times for Ontario dairy farmers, in spite of uncertainty on the international trade scene.
“Unnerving” is how Lancaster producer Peter Van Sleeuwen describes criticism of supply management. Yet, he is confident about the future of the industry, and the quota system.
The year 2016 saw record growth in demand and production.
“Consumption of cheese, butter, ice cream and yogurt is up,” notes the former Dairy Farmers of Ontario director, adding that production quotas have increased 15 per cent in two years.
Born and raised on a farm, Mr. Van Sleeuwen and his wife, Anne-Marie, own Mindy Farms Inc. and have four children with one, son Andrew, working fulltime in the farm operation.
Andrew, 30, is in the process of taking over the 900-acre, 130milker farm, and is looking forward to his four-year-old son continuing the family tradition.
Starting from scratch in the dairy business can be daunting, Mr. Van Sleeuwen notes. “Dairy farming has a tremendous appetite for capital,” he remarks.
The price of quota has been capped at $25,000 per kilogram. Yet, land prices continue to rise.
For the fiscal year ending October 31, 2016, DFO reports there were 3,705 producers representing a decrease of 2.5 per cent from the previous year’s 3,780 producers. These licensed dairy farmers continued to support more than 9,600 Ontario farm families and generated revenue of $2,085,365,719.
There is no template for farming.
“Times have evolved. It depends on what lifestyle you want. You obviously need critical mass,” he says. At the same time, many farm families also rely on off-farm income.
Consumer confidence continues to buoy the Canadian milk industry.
“Consumers know that we provide safe, reliable products consistently,” Mr. Van Sleeuwen says.
Milk marketers have received a public relations boost from grow-
ing evidence that dairy products are good for you.
“Consumer demand for healthy food choices has continued to increase, and dairy products are among the leaders in healthy food choice,” DFO says. “In addition, industrially-manufactured products that pretend to be substitutes cannot compare with ice cream and butter. The industry has benefited from re- search showing there is no association between dietary saturated fats and coronary heart disease and low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad) cholesterol.”
Consumers are more aware of the ingredients in their foods, and are demanding simple and natural ingredients.
Mr. Van Sleeuwen had represented Glengarry, Prescott-Russell and Ottawa-Carleton for three years on the DFO board.
He was succeeded by Hammond producer Bart Rijke, who was elected in January.
Mr. Rijke serves on the Audit and Planning Committee, the Communications and Government Relations Committee, the Governance Committee, the Quality Assurance Committee, and the Research Committee; as well as the DFO Advisory Committee for Milk.
Mr. Rijke and his wife, Antje, began farming after moving to Canada from the Netherlands. Today, they milk 120 cows and crop 500 acres with their oldest son, Geert, and his wife, Danielle. Bart and Antje have three children.