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3 Open Minutes with Wally Smith

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 31 October 2011

00_smith_wallyIn July, dairy farmer delegates from across the country elected a new president of Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC).

Wally Smith resides on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where he owns and operates MariaHolme Farms.

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Smith became a full-time dairy farmer in 1985 and now milks 75 cows in a double-six herringbone parlour.

He also raises forage and corn for the dairy. Smith and his wife, Julie, have a son, Christopher, and daughter, Angela.

Smith began his run as president making a vow the three previous outgoing presidents shared in their farewell addresses, including the most recent, Jacques Laforge, who served the last seven years as president. Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee spoke with Smith about his plans and the future of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Q: What experience do you bring to the table?

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A: SMITH: I’ve been involved with Dairy Farmers of Canada for 11 years and vice-president for seven of those years. I also served as vice-chair for the International Federation of Agricultural Producers Group on Dairy Products for three years.

Previously, I was a director for the B.C. Milk Producers Association and president for four years. I was also on the board of directors for the B.C. Dairy Foundation.

Q: How does DFC aid its producer members?

A: SMITH: DFC is the advocacy group for dairy producers across the country. We continue to lobby the government for what’s good for the dairy industry as a whole. With Canada’s regulated marketing for price stability, it provides excellent dairy products at fair prices for everyone. We also focus on marketing and promoting the nutrition of dairy products.

Q: What programs are the main focuses today?

A: SMITH: Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) has been activated across the country with a number of producers in every province participating. In the near future, we hope all producers will take part in this program.

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Although we know dairy producers are already producing high-quality milk, CQM provides proof to the public and government that quality control practices are engaged on a daily basis on Canadian farms.

Last year we hired a full-time staff person to focus on the environment and sustainable development.

They are working with research stations to see how farmers can mitigate any environmental impacts they may have. We’re involved in a life-cycle analysis to see what it takes to get the product from the farm gate to the table.

Milk is one of nature’s most perfect foods. We’ll continue to work with marketing and nutrition to promote the science-based benefits of dairy products.

We are always innovating our marketing for milk and milk products as research proves more and more benefits.

Q: What do you see coming to the forefront in the next five years?

A: SMITH: It’s hard to say. I’d like to see more harmonization of policies to encourage a strong dairy industry provided by government support of programs.

We should continue to promote truth in labeling, as non-dairy products are trying to imitate the wholeness and goodness of dairy products.

Trade is a big issue. The World Trade Organization is on life support right now and, given the state of the global economy, we can only wait to see how everything unfolds.

Meanwhile, the Canadian consumer should have no fear of a shortage of product. We continue to produce enough to meet our domestic needs.

Q: Are you in favour of national pooling? Why or why not?

A: SMITH: Yes. I think it is important to continue to have a strong voice across the country and to maximize the efficiencies that can be realized.

Dairy farmers are a shrinking population. The rate of attrition is continuing, albeit at a slower pace. We need to come together to have a bigger voice.

We also need to recognize there are a number of things that can be streamlined at the governance level.

Q: What makes this a good time to enact national pooling?

A: SMITH: It’s not necessarily a better time than others; it’s just another time. We’ve been down this road several times. Each time those negotiations didn’t go anywhere.

In my acceptance speech I mentioned we have had three outgoing presidents say this is a measure to work on. I didn’t want to wait until I was on my way out.

Negotiations for national pooling are currently under way with the Canadian Dairy Commission serving as the facilitator. Every province is at the table and DFC is also there observing these talks.  PD

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