How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand
Many changes occurred around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Canada, while schools and businesses closed, consumers flocked to the supermarkets to buy essentials.
Perishable goods flew off the shelves, resulting in limits being placed on items like dairy and poultry. The standard distribution system schedule put in place for dairy products could not keep up with buyers’ increased shopping.
While retail demand from grocers skyrocketed, orders from the foodservice industry plummeted. This has resulted in unforeseen fluctuations in the dairy market.
Hotels, restaurants, schools and eateries are closed or operating at limited capacity. As a result, there is now an enormous surplus of milk that has nowhere to go. Farmers are not equipped with storage spaces to accommodate the excess supply. Unlike agriculture products like potatoes, milk has to be sold immediately or risk spoilage.
Cows will continue producing milk, regardless of fluctuations in the market. While farmers have the option to reduce the size of their herd or change diet or nutrition, these things could prove detrimental when the market stabilizes.
The Supply Management System
A supply management system controls production quotas and imports for Canadian dairy, chicken, turkey and eggs. It was established in the1970s to coordinate production and demand while simultaneously controlling imports. By operating under this method, prices are stabilized for both producers and consumers.
A national agency represents each industry, and they are in charge of setting production levels that match provincial demand. Farmers in each province are allocated production quotas that are meant to prevent surpluses or shortages.
The original quotas were based on consumer needs pre-pandemic. As a result of these unforeseen events, farmers must now adjust to the new Canadian dairy demand. Here are four main ways farmers can adapt to the changing times.
- Dump the Milk
Producers say that discarding raw milk is inevitable at this stage. Farmers are reporting that they have been asked to take turns dumping milk. Although they’re paid for it, the waste could amount to as much as 5 million litres every week.
This disposal method is unsustainable and should only be utilized while the market is above capacity. Cows must continue to be milked to keep them comfortable and healthy, and production must continue to ensure product availability in retail stores.
- Donate to Food Banks
Rather than dumping milk, some farmers have begun donating to food banks to support Canadians in need. While this is a positive form of dispersing the milk surplus, it has the potential to overwhelm food banks that may not have the storage capacity to support this influx.
Additionally, the raw milk provided from farmers must be processed, which complicates the standard donation process.
- Improve Operations
Dairy farmers should focus on improving operations to become more efficient and cost-effective. Many producers have begun investing in updated equipment and robotics to save time and money. Competition is set to increase as a result of import growth projected for the next decade. To maintain a market edge, operations should be improved and simplified wherever possible.
- Expand or Retire
In 2019, the Canadian federal government announced an aid package valued at $1.75 billion to compensate supply-managed dairy producers over an eight-year period. The Dairy Direct Payment Program is one part of this aid package and provides $345 million payments as compensation during 2019 and 2020.
The aid package was proposed as a result of import shifts. The Canadian government has opened part of its domestic market to foreign producers as part of several free-trade negotiations. To adapt to increased competition from foreign products, Canadian producers should plan to expand their operations or retire. Larger farms will be able to sustain demand while simultaneously upgrading their methods to be constantly improving.
Smaller producers may not be able to afford the necessary production updates to keep up with competitors.
These are unprecedented circumstances. As schools, businesses and restaurants reopen, dairy demand will increase. With indoor capacity requirements and shifts in consumer trends, consumption levels will undoubtedly continue to fluctuate.
While farmers should take steps to dispose of surplus responsibly, they should not halt production or decrease their operation size.
Read more from Emily Folk
I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation. You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.
Sask. premier accuses Trudeau of risking trade with India, hiding status of talks
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe listens during a news conference, in Whistler, B.C., on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Moe’s government is accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of damaging relations with India and keeping the provinces in the dark about trade talks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Dylan Robertson
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s government is accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of damaging relations with India and keeping the provinces in the dark about trade talks.
In a letter Moe released Monday, Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison argued Trudeau is picking a fight with India for domestic political gain and risking access to one of his province’s most important export markets.
“It is very difficult to come to any other conclusion that your government has once again put its own domestic political interests ahead of the national economic interest — particularly as it relates to exports and trade of western Canadian-produced commodities,” Harrison wrote.
Last month, Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma told The Canadian Press in an interview that Ottawa sought a pause “within the last month” to ongoing talks for an Early Progress Trade Agreement.
The news stunned business leaders, and Harrison wrote that his peers have had a “complete lack of updates” on the negotiations since at least late July.
“It is unacceptable to our government that we first heard of a pause in the EPTA negotiations through the media one week ago, and have received no explanation from (the) Government of Canada subsequent to that,” reads Harrison’s letter, dated Sept. 8.
“Clearly, what your government has done has put the already strained Canada-India relationship in even further peril after some improvement following the prime minister’s disastrous trip to India in 2018,” he wrote, a reference to Trudeau being mocked for wearing traditional outfits and for inviting a convicted terrorist to a reception he hosted in India.
Harrison added that provinces and territories ought to be present in the negotiations, saying this has been done in talks for past trade deals. Harrison also claimed that Trade Minister Mary Ng had not replied to a late July letter seeking an update on the negotiations.
The Liberals have given no clear reason why they ordered a pause in the trade talks, and Ng’s office said she would be providing a statement in the late afternoon in response to Harrison’s letter.
“We know the negotiations around free trade are long and complex, and I won’t say any more,” Trudeau told reporters last Friday in Singapore.
Saskatchewan makes up roughly a third of Canada’s exports to India, amounting to more than $1 billion per year. The trade includes commodities such as lentils, which India has occasionally blocked or delayed as it tinkers with pest-control policies.
Trudeau briefly met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi this weekend, and India’s external affairs ministry said Modi expressed strong concerns to Trudeau about “anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” particularly Sikh separatists who want to carve out a state they call Khalistan from India.
The Indian readout made no mention of themes Ottawa included in its summary of the meeting, such as economic growth, support for lower-income countries and reforming global financial institutions.
Trudeau told reporters that he had concerns about foreign interference from any state, including India, and that Canadians of any origin have a right to free speech.
India has long accused Canada of harbouring extremists, while Ottawa has continually maintained that freedom of speech means groups can voice political opinions if they don’t use violence.
Tensions escalated this spring over a series of incidents, including with posters referring to India’s diplomats in Canada as “killers” and seeking their home addresses.
Ng is set to lead a trade mission to India next month with Canadian businesses.
Human Rights Watch says the Modi government has overseen a “serious regression in human rights and constitutional protections,” with attacks on Muslims and other minorities met with impunity and restrictions on journalists.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.
Canadian innovation beats EU precaution in agriculture sustainability
From the MacDonald Laurier Institute
By Stuart Smyth
Canada should learn from, not follow, the EU’s agriculture policy errors
The world needs a lot of food to feed eight billion hungry mouths. Even though global production for the most important crops – rice, wheat and maize – reached all-time highs last year, inflation, geopolitical interruptions and misguided policy have disrupted our ability to make food abundant and affordable for everyone.
Crop breeding, more efficient fertilizer and chemical use, and investments in farming equipment and technology offer tried and true strategies for increasing production while enhancing sustainability and reducing GHG emissions.
The European Union is rejecting these proven strategies through policies that dramatically reduce fertilizer and chemical use and ban modern crop breeding technologies. Regrettably, Canada’s federal government is looking at the European approach as a model for its emissions reduction plans. Canadians must reject the ideologically driven, counterproductive policies pursued in the European Union and must insist on science and outcome-driven policies to promote a strong, sustainable agricultural sector that can help satisfy the world’s growing needs.
Innovation is fundamental to modern societies and economies. Governments constantly encourage innovation and enact policies to incentivize investment into the research and development required to bring new products and processes to market. In recent years, environmental sustainability has been a primary concern and Canadian agriculture has been at the forefront of sustainable innovation. Fundamentally, sustainability in agriculture means maximizing efficiency: producing more pounds of crop per acre of land for each pound of input (seed, fertilizer, pesticides, labour) applied.
Prior to the widespread adoption of modern crop technologies, all crop and food production was done through what are now known as organic production practices. With organic production the only way to produce more food is to use more land. However, beginning in 1960, food production became decoupled from increased land use, increasing by 390% while using only 10% more land. Innovations in crop breeding technologies such as GM crops (genetically modified), fertilizer and chemical use, and farm industrialization have all contributed to this increasingly sustainable food production.
This increase in productivity has allowed the world’s population to flourish from just 3 billion people in 1960 to 8 billion today. Although the global agricultural sector is a significant source of greenhouse gases, total emissions have remained flat since 2000 even as production increased, and the sector’s share of global emissions has declined.
Despite this incredible success story, modern agriculture is often viewed with suspicion, particularly in the European Union. They have incorporated precaution-based regulations which dramatically reduce fertilizer and chemical use and ban modern crop breeding technologies. Presently they are proposing to triple organic production, from 8% of current land to 25%, by 2030, as part of what’s known as their “Farm to Fork” strategy to reduce agricultural GHG emissions.
Inevitably, the strategy will not necessarily reduce emissions but will certainly reduce production. Declines are expected: -26% in cereals, -27% in oilseeds, -10% for fruits and vegetables, -14% of beef and -9% of dairy. All of these production decreases will contribute to even higher food prices in the EU, which has been experiencing double digit inflation increases for most of the past year.
By contrast, Canada allows all plant breeding technologies to be used in the development of new varieties, and fertilizer and chemical use is based upon risk appropriate, science-based regulations. The benefits of this approach are unambiguous.
In Saskatchewan, only 3% of crop land requires tillage – mechanical turning of the soil to control for weeds and pests and prepare for seeding. In the European Union, 74% of crop land requires it. Removing tillage from land management practices not only reduces soil erosion and increases moisture conservation; it also reduces the amount of carbon released and increases the sequestration of carbon through continuous crop production. 90% of Saskatchewan farmers indicate that efficient weed control provided by the use of glyphosate increased sustainability in their practices, and 73% said production of herbicide tolerant canola, which is predominantly GM, did.
An assessment of EU agricultural GHG emissions concluded that had genetically modified crops been adopted there in a timely fashion, total EU agricultural GHG emissions would have been reduced by 7.5%. This amounts to 33 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. At any rate, their reduced yields have left them heavily dependent on imports of GM livestock feed from Brazil and Argentina.
Comparing sustainable agricultural production between the EU and Canada reveals two very different situations. The EU has rejected GM crops due to politics and precaution and as a result still heavily relies on tillage. Canadian farmers have enthusiastically adopted GM crops, virtually eliminating tillage. The EU is proposing additional precaution-based regulations that will further reduce crop and food production. Canadian farmers have demonstrated the ability to produce more food with fewer inputs, while the EU is poised to produce less, with more land requirements.
Opposing paths have been selected in the EU and Canada. The evidence to date confirms that it is Canadian agricultural production that is increasingly sustainable. The government must learn the right lessons from Europe’s mistakes when adopting strategies for reducing emissions from our agricultural sector. Canada should continue to improve sustainability through innovation. Canada should not follow Europe’s failed attempts to reduce emissions by producing less food.
Stuart J. Smyth is Professor & Agri-Food Innovation & Sustainability Enhancement Chair at the University of Saskatchewan.
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