meta Dairy producers in Ontario are going to look at their policies and share their financial losses due to the recent milk dumping during the snow. :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

Dairy producers in Ontario are going to look at their policies and share their financial losses due to the recent milk dumping during the snow.

The Dairy Farmers of Ontario is going to look at its policy for dealing with emergencies or times of crisis like the blizzard over Christmas, which caused producers to throw away thousands of litres of milk.

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During Dairy Day at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week on Thursday, dairy farmers talked a lot about this problem. DFO board member Mark Hamel said the organisation wasn’t ready for such a large-scale emergency and could have communicated with producers better.

Hamel said that he and others at DFO, which buys all the milk in the province and handles its transportation, processing, pasteurisation, and distribution, are responsible for how it was handled. The DFO has decided to use a compensation and cost recovery plan to spread the losses from the dumping among all of its more than 3,300 members in the province.

“We didn’t have a good plan in place in case of a crisis,” Hamel said. “I will own that, not all of it, but what belongs to me. We didn’t have a plan for what to do.”

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Hamel, who is in charge of DFO Region 11, which includes the counties of Grey and Bruce, said that the DFO has a plan for dealing with problems like skim milk overproduction. In the spring of 2020, for example, dairy farmers in the province and across Canada dumped milk on a rotating basis because demand had dropped a lot after COVID-19 shutdowns forced restaurants to close.

But Hamel said that the policy wasn’t set up to deal with what forecasters said would be a “generational storm.”

What happened in the province over the Christmas weekend, when many roads were closed between December 23 and 26, affected a lot of producers and caused milk to be dumped quickly over a large area. Grey-Bruce was one of the places that got hit the hardest by the storm. All county roads and provincial highways were closed, and sometimes county and municipal snowploughs had to be pulled off the roads. Police heard about a lot of abandoned cars and drivers who were stuck.

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Hamel said Thursday that the storm hurt close to 45% of the province’s more than 3,300 producers. Late in December, milk producers posted pictures of their milk being dumped on social media. Some farmers who can’t store much milk because their cows keep making it and it goes bad quickly said they lost thousands of dollars. The DFO said that many people had never had to dump milk before.

Paul Vickers, a dairy farmer from Meaford, spoke out Thursday about how upset he was with the way the DFO handled the situation and how it went against its usual policy. He said that he isn’t worried about the money that was lost, but about what he called a “swirl of governance” within DFO.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve dumped milk before and no one really cared or gave it a second thought,” Vickers said. “Why does it matter if one or two people do it instead of a larger percentage of producers?”

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Murray Sherk, the chair of the DFO, wrote a letter to producers this week about how the organisation plans to share the costs of missed pick-ups among all producers, not just those who had to dump milk because trucks couldn’t get through.

Hamel said that this time, the direction from DFO was not a change in policy but a one-time order for a special situation. Hamel also said that the DFO’s current policy for dumping milk is still in place and has worked well in Grey-Bruce in the past.

Hamel, a dairy farmer in Bruce County, said, “It is a good plan for winter storms, power outages, or whatever the case may be, and I am strongly in favour of keeping that plan in place.” “What changed with this announcement was that it was done to let all producers know that we don’t have enough extra space in our transportation.

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Hamel said that the DFO has learned from what happened and that it needs to make changes, such as updating its policy.

Hamel said, “In the past, we’ve tried to do a better job, but it’s clear that we didn’t do a good enough job this time.” “We’re getting rid of that, and we’re going to try to fix the situation by making sure that there are better plans in place for emergencies and crises and that producers, transporters, and processors can all see what those plans are.”

Hamel said that there will be a lot of review, and that the whole transportation system will be looked at.

Hamel said, “We are working as quickly as we can.” “We don’t want to do it too fast or without getting enough feedback.”

Hamel said that the decision to make all the producers pay the same amount of money was also based on their mental health.

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He said, “We wanted to try to find a way to treat every producer fairly and equally.”

Producers who had to dump their milk will get their money back, and the DFO will cover the loss by lowering the price of milk blend by about $2.50 per hectolitre. Hamel said Thursday that the price drop would last for a month. He also said that the price would have gone down by $1 to $1.50 per hectolitre even if the storm hadn’t happened.

Hamel said that the board decided to pay the producers because they thought they had to be responsible and answerable to them after telling them to throw out their milk.

“In some ways, I’m proud of that decision, because it shows that we can all work together to fix things,” Hamel said.

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After the whole system was shut down for three days, he said they did something about it even though some roads were still closed, trucks were in ditches, and plants had more work to do.

“Everything was back to normal two days after the storm,” said Hamel. “Every farmer was picked up regularly and consistently, and I think our industry did very well to recover and keep going after a storm of that size and power.”

Ron Groen, a dairy farmer from Bruce County who led the discussion on Thursday, liked what the DFO had done.

“We dumped all of our milk at once, and some of it would have been there on the third day when the trucks were back on the road,” Groen said, adding that they are only three kilometres from a Gay Lea plant in Teeswater.

“The way I saw it, I had to file an insurance claim, and everyone’s premiums were going to go up whether you had to dump or not for the next 10 years because of it. Now DFO is covering it and everyone is affected, so we won’t be affected on the insurance side, but we will be affected on the blend side for one month.”

The DFO has said that consumers probably won’t notice any change because of this.

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