Amalgamation talks put on hold

Holstein Canada has pulled out of amalgamation talks with the Canadian Dairy Network, officials told the annual meeting here recently.

Following a series of cross-country meetings with the breed association’s members, the organization decided there wasn’t enough overall support within its membership to proceed with the amalgamation.

“The members have spoken and the organization will listen to them… You have to listen to the members or you’ll spend more time fighting than building something,” said Holstein Canada president Paul MacLeod.

The Canadian Dairy Network was formed in 1995 as a private organization which conducts genetic evaluation and genetic research for all dairy cattle in Canada.

MacLeod said although Quebec members supported the idea, the rest of the membership wasn’t ready for amalgamation. People are often afraid of change until they can fully understand the benefits, he said.

Holstein Canada is a financially sound organization with 11,102 members and MacLeod said producers may fear losing the stable support the organization provides.

Manitoba producers John Robinson and Michael Andres, both from southeast Manitoba, indicated they were disappointed in the decision. They said they were looking for more discussion at this year’s annual meeting and asked the board not to sweep the idea under the table.

“These things are not dead,” MacLeod said.

Robinson said although he favours the principle of amalgamation, he’s uncomfortable with the amount of control breeders would lose.

MacLeod defended the time, money and staff time spent on the proposal to amalgamate with Canadian Dairy Network. “If you don’t push the envelope you don’t make any progress; that’s the way we look at it,” he said.

Brian Van Doormaal, the chief executive officer for both organizations for the past two years, reinforced MacLeod’s statements. He said the Joint Management Team didn’t just examine amalgamation, it established new programs and fostered closer alliances with other organizations.

When asked about outside threats to the supply management aspect of dairy production, MacLeod said dairy producers can’t ignore the pressures other countries are putting on the system, but there’s no need for panic.

He said he expects it will face increased pressures as new international trade agreements are negotiated but it won’t disappear.

“The prime minister said he’ll support it (supply management) and so I believe that,” MacLeod said, adding, “All I want people to know is that supply management is going to change. I (just) don’t know how.”

“When we see opportunities we should move towards them… We don’t need to give the government a reason to get rid of it,” MacLeod said.

“I want us to be working towards keeping what we have and adding on, and making it so it can’t be dismissed,” he added.

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