Dairy initiative seeks to reassure consumers

The program aims to meet consumer concerns in a farmer-friendly fashion

Canadian dairy farmers have launched a mandatory program to document the sector’s commitment to food safety, environmental protection and animal care.

The proAction Initiative, a Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) undertaking, is designed to show consumers how farmers tend to their animals and land in a sustainable way and will allow farmers to benchmark their progress against other producers.

“As dairy farmers, we are very proud to collectively demonstrate responsible stewardship of our animals and the environment, sustainably producing high-quality, safe, and nutritious food for consumers,” Wally Smith, DFC’s president, said.

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Canadians will be able to see how the industry is accomplishing this, measurable standards currently in place and the dedication of dairy producers to continually improve the sustainability of milk production, Smith said.

Meanwhile DFC’s Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) program has been recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as part of an ongoing program to document the on-farm and post-farm food safety systems implemented by national industry organizations. CFIA has noted programs like these are important to enhance food safety, maintain consumer confidence and facilitate market access.

DFC is the second organization to qualify under the program, after the Chicken Farmers of Canada in 2013.

Recognition by the CFIA acknowledges a food safety program has been developed following hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles, conforms to applicable federal and provincial legislation and has been implemented in an effective and consistent way.

Smith said proAction is the culmination of years of development and implementation of best practices. It combines the traditional strengths of the dairy sector combined with new standards that are based on research and practised by farmer innovators.

“It will enable farmers to see how their farm compares to their peers on a national basis, which helps foster continuous improvement,” he said.

The food industry and consumers can check on progress under proAction through dairyfarmers.ca.

“We have long been sustainable in our farming practices and are very passionate about what we do,” David Wiens, DFC vice-president, said. “Our respect for resources, animals and the environment are the reasons the industry is sustainable today. We intend to move forward, building on our strengths, to be sustainable tomorrow.”

The development of these processes and programs for dairy and other sectors has been funded in part through the federal government over the years, with individual farmers absorbing compliance costs, such as testing water quality or annual equipment checkup.

A DFC statement said the single national implementation strategy aims to simplify administration and infrastructure, and keep costs reasonable for farmers.

DFC said the program is designed to meet the needs of all the key stakeholders.

Farmers will find it reasonable, designed by and for farmers, simple and cost effective, consistent and with minimal disruption to farms. It will also use much of the existing administrative infrastructure. Consumers will find it credible because it will feature independent audits.

DFC will partner with governments in the implementation of the programs.

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