Dairy producers in the four western provinces will operate as a single production unit under the terms of an agreement signed last week.
“BC Milk, BC Dairy, Alberta Milk, SaskMilk, and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba have all agreed to a partnership approach that aligns the resources and expertise of the five organizations under one WMP,” the group announced September 29.
The marketing boards in each province will remain in place, as the regulation of farm products is a provincial matter. However, the boards will streamline operations to effectively operate as one.
A new governance model will be developed by spring 2023 to oversee the partnership, which the group says will “provide a more organized, unified voice for Western dairy farmers in discussions at the national table and with all dairy stakeholders.”
Together, producers in Western Canada account for about 25% of the milk produced in Canada. This compares to about 33% in each of Ontario and Quebec. The remainder, less than 10%, is produced in Atlantic Canada.
Producers will see no immediate change, says BC Dairy Association chair Holger Schwichtenberg.
“I as a producer will initially see very little difference,” he says. “What’s important here is that we’re setting ourselves up for the future.”
A harmonized milk transportation system across the four Western provinces is planned, as well as integrated policy and communications teams. A single entity will give the West the scale needed to attract the talent needed to guide the sector forward, and also attract processors.
“It makes sense that we have one policy team in Western Canada, not four,” Schwichtenberg said. “[Processors] are not stopping and talking to four provinces, they’re stopping and talking to one entity, the Western Milk Pool.”