This term evokes producers’ major contributions to Quebec society through their individual and collective involvement. During the AGM, delegates were able to hear a number of extremely interesting presentations and discuss hot topics. We will provide more details on this AGM in the June issue of the magazine.
Dairy producers are committed to many different causes and we targeted some of the main ones in our annual report, including the commitment to unionism, community, the environment and animal welfare. The first of these, our commitment to unionism, has ultimately enabled us to develop an organization that reflects who we are, Les Producteurs de lait du Québec, which not only markets our milk across Quebec, but also represents our collective interests. As a result, our voice can reach farther and have more of an impact than if we were speaking individually.
On that note, the week before our AGM, we had an opportunity to make our voice heard when Justin Trudeau’s government unveiled its first budget since the federal 2021 election. During the election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada had promised to compensate Canadian dairy producers for the impacts of the latest trade agreement, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). By speaking out, we kept up the pressure that our organization and Dairy Farmers of Canada have been exerting since 2018. We were then satisfied to see that the recent budget included compensation for supply-managed sectors affected by CUSMA, even though it left us hungry for more details.
Indeed, the budget did not mention dollar amounts or terms and conditions, which means that dairy producers still face a great deal of uncertainty in this issue. We have said it before and we will say it again: Dairy farms need predictability and consistency to ensure financially sound growth, not only for the benefit of our farms, but for the regions where they are located as well. The impacts of CUSMA are already palpable, which is why the federal government’s decision to postpone compensation until the fall of 2022 is a legitimate source of concern.
That being said, the federal budget announcement gives us another opportunity this fall to make our voice heard. Yet, our commitment does not end with our demands. We are also involved in promoting our communities. Quebec producers have set up sponsorship programs to support cultural, sports and culinary initiatives in every region of the province. We are also involved in the fight against food insecurity, particularly through our milk donations and the milk-school program.
We have said it before and we will say it again: Dairy farms need predictability and consistency to ensure financially sound growth, not only for the benefit of our farms, but for the regions where they are located as well.
We are aware of the challenges that face us. Societal expectations with regard to sustainable development and animal welfare will continue to rise. Climate change mitigation efforts will continue to play a decisive role in the opinions of an ever larger segment of the population, but also in our planet’s future. Our farms will be affected by climate change and will need to adjust some of their practices to cope with its impacts. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch, because we have already laid a solid groundwork to answer these concerns.
Our commitment to the environment and animal welfare is nothing new. In the last few years, we have not only improved our environmental performance and decreased our greenhouse gas emissions for each litre of milk produced, but we have also contributed and invested millions of dollars in research projects whose relevance is assessed based on the criterion of sustainable development. Producers invest in their farms every year to meet societal expectations. For animal welfare alone, Quebec producers invest nearly $13 million annually. Furthermore, the proAction program, which producers themselves developed without any government intervention, includes modules for the environment and animal care, among others.
But that’s not all. Les Producteurs de lait du Québec is also committed to assessing and planning actions on the basis of sustainable development. This commitment was enshrined in a resolution during our last AGM. We also insist on the fact that these efforts must be concerted and shared by all actors in the industry. The objective is to develop effective individual and collective tools that will allow us to hit our targets.
Solutions will need to be sought at all levels so that we can keep meeting consumer expectations. It would be unfair if producers alone had to bear the brunt of all the changes demanded, including those in the impending new version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. We are asking our governments to support producers in their improvement efforts and give them realistic timelines. Financial resources and expertise must be made available to our farms without burdening them with more red tape.
We are certain that producers’ commitment, which is a huge source of pride, will be a key asset in overcoming the challenges that lie ahead, in collaboration with all other industry actors, including our society and governments.
Daniel Gobeil, Chairman