It has been a very intriguing couple of weeks, listening to and reading about the debate on radio, in cartoons and on the pages of newspapers about the types and sizes of milk containers available on Ontario’s grocery shelves.
We need to study effects of 3L milk
As a consumer myself, I recognize the need for Ontario’s dairy marketing system to meet the changing needs of Ontarians from a wide variety of markets and with a wide variety of consumer needs. However, some have unfairly blamed Dairy Farmers of Ontario of acting to keep 3L jugs of milk off the shelves of grocery and convenience stores. Critics have taken a very simple and straightforward issue and have inflamed it beyond recognition. DFO is not even party to the appeal of introducing these jugs as a market option. In fact, our organization supported a pilot project to assess and evaluate consumer demand for a wider variety of containers and sizes of milk, as well as the impact of the introduction of three-litre jugs on the volume of milk sales.
DFO is proudly owned and operated by the farm families of Ontario’s dairy farms. Our organization is charged by the government of Ontario to administer Ontario’s dairy system. That means ensuring that the production of safe, high-quality dairy products matches consumer demand. When you consider the consequences of over or under production, that’s an important goal: under-production can lead to higher prices and can penalize Ontario consumers; over-production can lead to wasted dairy products and penalizes hard-working dairy farmers who earn their wages from the market.
It’s not my place to tell Ontario consumers how much milk they should or should not drink. However, it is the responsibility of DFO to ensure Ontario’s dairy system meets the needs of consumers. When past experience shows that introducing downsized containers impacts the volume of products sold, it becomes critical to the ongoing stability of Ontario’s dairy system to understand the possible effects of 3L jugs. This is not a matter, as some charge, of being anticompetitive. This is a simple matter of meeting the needs of both Ontario’s consumers and dairy farmers.
In short, DFO is not opposed to 3L jugs of milk. As an organization owned and operated by Ontario’s dairy farmers, it is simple common sense that we would support measures that meet consumer demands and grow the market for dairy products. However, if DFO is to continue meeting the needs of Ontario consumers and Ontario’s dairy farmers, we must understand the impact of 3L jugs on the dairy market.
As a dairy farmer, I know first hand the importance of meeting the needs of Ontario consumers.
Some say the Canadian dairy system reduces choice while costing Canadians more than other countries, typically looking to the U.S. for comparison. However, the facts do not support this argument. As a start, most products are cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada. One needs only to compare the price of greeting cards, North American-built cars, books, or even newspapers. That said, the price Ontarians pay for dairy products is on par with what consumers in most other developed countries pay.
It’s true that Americans in some states pay less – but we must look at why. While American dairy farmers receive billions of taxpayer subsidies, Ontarians are not expected, nor are asked, to subsidize the dairy industry through their tax dollars. Other jurisdictions permit the use of synthetic hormones to meet market needs. Instead, Ontario’s dairy system meets the highest safety and quality standards in the world, while ensuring farmers can reinvest in safety to produce efficient, high-quality dairy products that other dairy systems simply do not provide.
By Bill Emmott – Bill Emmott is an Ontario dairy farmer. He serves as Chair of the Board of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.