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Dairy farmers reach out to public through social media

The Dairy Farmers of Canada is urging its members to bypass the mainstream media and use social media to win the support of Canadians.

“If we can’t get our message out into the mainstream media, and we have been very unsuccessful in trying to achieve that, one way we can do that as farmers is engage our local communities and talk about what we do on our farms,” Wally Smith, the group’s president and a producer from Vancouver Island, told attendees at the recent Manitoba Dairy Conference.

“The urban people do not really know what we do. They go get milk out of the store, but they don’t necessarily know how it’s produced.”

“I think farmers are held in high regard and I think we need to reach out to ordinary Canadians directly and tell them our story,” added David Wiens, a producer from Grunthal and chair of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.

Smith said staff at the national office monitor media reports virtually around the clock, including social media such as Twitter, which doesn’t shut its door at 5 p.m. He said he opened a Twitter account about a year ago, and it proved to be a useful tool when the federal government announced in November that it would participate in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

That announcement sparked media speculation that Canada would be forced to abandon supply management – coverage Smith termed a “media crisis.” The Dairy Farmers is in close contact with federal government politicians and have been assured supply management will not be part of the trade talks, said Smith.

“And I believe this government really does what it says it will do,” he said.

“Supply management is a success story. We have a fair price for farmers, we have a stable price for processors… there are also reasonable prices for the consumer.”

To assist in promoting the dairy industry and its products, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba also passed a resolution at its annual general meeting last month that increases promotional deductions paid by producers.

The promotion levy, currently at $1.19 per 100 litres, will increase to $1.30 on Aug. 1, 2012 and to $1.40 on Aug. 1, 2013.

“That’s part of it, but the other part of it is to advertise,” said Wiens. “We need to have a presence in the marketplace because we have to compete with everything else out there, all of the other beverages and food products.”

Consumers want to know more about where their dairy products are coming from and they need to be told that fair compensation allows farmers to continue to invest in best management practices supporting sustainability and animal welfare, said Wiens.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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