Dairy Farmers of Manitoba (DFM) is continuing to encourage its producers to tell their stories in order to defend supply management from its critics.
“We should get out there ourselves and talk about it, because it can’t always be government or (DFM) that is doing everything,” farmer Raymond Palsson said following a producer meeting in Stonewall.
To assist producers in this task and provide information to the Canadian public, yourmilk.ca was launched this winter.
“We wanted to be able to give our producers the tools to be able to respond to these critics,” said DFM chairman David Wiens. “The public often likes to talk to grassroots producers, the people who are working on the ground.”
He said the site offers quick, to-the-point information that is easy to understand.
But Wiens added that dairy farmers face a tough fight with critics who aren’t always interested in the information provided.
“I think it’s an ideological bent that drives it,” he said. “And it’s very difficult to convince someone who is ideologically opposed to the concept of supply management and the concept of working together like we do with supply management.”
Although critics may be difficult to convince, the chairman said what is really important is exposing Canadians to both sides of the issue.
“If people listen to interviews, or read about it, and our voice is included, then we’ve ensured that we’ve gotten our story out,” said Wiens.
Free trade discussions have helped fuel public commentary on supply management in recent months, but Wiens said the federal government has committed to protecting supply management during trade negotiations.
“I wish I could share that optimism,” said Palsson. “But David is confident, so that helps me out a bit.”
He said recent attacks on dairy supply management by organizations like the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association have also been frustrating.
Last fall that organization launched a website targeting the dairy industry.
“I think they are targeting the wrong people,” said Palsson. “They either have to look at the processors and the retailers — or themselves — to see where they can find efficiencies.”
The best way to tackle the issue is for consumers to learn about the effort and risk dairy farmers put in to make a living, he added.