Manitoba dairy producers are pushing ahead on a national initiative to distinguish Canadian milk products as being among the best in the world.
The new initiative, called proAction, will encompass the Canadian Quality Milk program, as well as issues related to animal care, biosecurity, traceability, and environmental sustainability.
It will also allow for concrete measurement of best management practices, and ensure consumers’ concerns and questions can be answered effectively, said David Wiens, chairman of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.
“We’re responding to what we know is important to all of us, and what is certainly important to consumers as well,” said Wiens.
“When consumers wonder about where their food comes from, how it was raised… we see answering that concretely as adding value to our product in the eyes of the consumer.”
It is also a demonstration that his sector isn’t taking consumers for granted.
“We have supply management here in Canada and it works well, but we’re certainly not going to take advantage of it in terms of thinking that the consumer doesn’t have a choice — because ultimately they do,” Wiens said.
“I mean if they’re not comfortable with our dairy products and there aren’t other products available they may simply not use dairy. So it’s important to strive for the best product possible, and let people know what we’re doing.”
Each area of the program will be subject to an independent on-farm audit to verify adherence and also facilitate improvement, the chairman said.
“What we’re developing is an assessment tool,” he said. “There are going to be certain things which can be measured to see if these best management practices are happening on the farm… so you can check off those things that are being done, or identify an area of concern.”
The proAction program shouldn’t be onerous for producers, as many of these best management practices are already in place, he said.
“We’re trying to develop programs that are user friendly, we’re not trying to create a mountain of paperwork for farmers,” said Wiens.
ProAction is also expected to streamline oversight processes and reduce the number of visits inspectors make to farms.
New elements of the program are being phased in incrementally, but all farmers will need to be compliant by 2020.