High production costs, narrow margins and market opportunities were key topics of discussion at the BC Dairy Industry Conference in Vancouver last week.
A pre-conference meeting of producers with national industry representatives underscored the severe challenges BC producers are facing as incomes fall short of production costs and interest rates show no sign of abating in any significant way before 2025.
The potential to tap into markets for specific milk components is one way the industry is trying to chart a course forward, building on the foundation of industry veterans such as Ben Janzen, who was honoured with the BC Dairy Achievement Award at the conference.
Janzen retired as chair of the BC Milk Marketing Board on July 31, 2021 following a five-year term that capped 21 years of service to the sector both as a director of BC Milk and before that as a member of the first producer-elected board of Agrifoods International Cooperative in 1996.
Jim Byrne of the BC Dairy Historical Society hailed Janzen’s selfless work on behalf of the industry as he presented the award.
“Ben has always put the dairy industry ahead of his personal agendas, and has fought extremely hard for the BC dairy farmers in the national scheme,” he said. “His thoughtful, persuasive attitude won us a lot of battles and bettered the BC Dairy industry.”
This includes an allocation policy within the Western Milk Pool that ensures a steady supply of milk to processors, giving them the certainty needed to make further investments in capacity. One example is the opening of Saputo’s fluid milk plant in Port Coquitlam in 2021.
“These successes have allowed the industry to increase processing capacity and develop initiatives that, when completed, will provide processing for growth for many years to come,” Byrne said.
In response, Janzen expressed gratitude while emphasizing the determination and resilience of producers in the face of challenges.
“This industry is not all one person; it never has been. It takes a lot of time to serve as a member on a board, and I want to first of all to acknowledge the support of my wife and family,” he said. “It is certainly an honour and a privilege to receive this, but actually, I think it belongs to all the producers of British Columbia. You’re the ones who make this industry great.”