MARIA STEIN — The vice chairperson of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Murray Sherk, was welcomed by the Ohio Farmers Union, as well as area farmers, at the Maria Stein American Legion Auxiliary Post 571, in Mercer County, on Tuesday, where he led an informative discussion regarding the Canadian dairy supply management system.
Sherk shared his perspective, to a crowd of about 25 people, on the pros and cons of the system along with how, or if, a similar system could be implemented in the United States.
According to the Ohio Farmers Union, since 2013, net farm income for U.S. farmers has declined 50 percent. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325, and many commodities remain below the cost of production.
Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, and Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, were also in attendance to help lead Tuesday’s meeting.
Logan opened the forum by recognizing the hard work that comes with being a farmer, as well as the dedication and sacrifice they, along with their families, give daily while still often struggling to make ends meet.
“That’s the situation in which we find ourselves in the dairy industry right now,” he said.
“What we are trying to do,” Logan continued, “is to get information into people’s hands about the possibilities and alternatives that exist for policy in the dairy industry.”
Von Ruden, who introduced himself as a lifelong farmer, said he was compelled to join the political side of agriculture after his parents’ farm was affected by farming crises in the 1990s.
“(I wanted to know) if there was a way to change things,” he said.
Von Ruden pointed out that there seems to be a “massive move” toward larger farms in the country, leaving the smaller caliber farms and farmers at a bit of a loss.
“If you look at how Canada and some other countries around the world that have supply management programs, every farmer, as a whole, either (benefits) when there’s positives or suffers when there’s a loss,” Von Ruden said. “It isn’t just a certain hand-picked few, it’s absorbed by all.”
Murray Sherk, of Plattsville, Ontario, is the soon-to-be president of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. He and his wife, Sandra, along with their four daughters, live on a 500-acre farm with 130 dairy cows.
Sherk shared that Canada’s dairy system is known as “supply management,” which provides balance in the dairy sector by enabling Canadian dairy farmers to act collectively to negotiate price and adjust milk production to meet consumer demand.
“In Ontario, if you’re going to sell milk, it’s got to be sold to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and we’re the central marketing agency for all the milk,” he said.
This steady pricing results in the Canadian dairy farming being one of the few agricultural sectors that are self-sufficient, which provides income security for farmers while requiring no government subsidy.
At a national level in Canada, market requirements are determined to meet domestic consumer demand and avoid overproduction. A National Production Quota is issued to provinces based on percentages. The provinces, then, issue a quota to producers.
One attendee pointed out that America has a “co-op” system within the dairy industry in many places throughout the country, which is similar, in a basic sense, to the system used in Canada.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario Vice Chairman Murray Sherk speaks at the Maria Stein American Legion Auxiliary Post 571, on Aug. 28, to share his perspective on pros and cons of the Canadian dairy supply management system.
Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden speaks to an audience, including local farmers, at a dairy farmer forum held at the Maria Stein American Legion Auxiliary Post 571 on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
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