Got milk?

National Post
January 22, 2001

Responses to “Dairy farmers are milking Canadian consumers” by Lawrence Solomon.

As a former dairy farmer I felt it necessary to respond to Lawrence Solomon’s column, Dairy Farmers are Milking Canadian Consumers (Jan. 16). I gather Mr. Solomon would prefer to pay less at the grocery store for milk and milk products. Canada’s dairy farmers in Canada receive only 50¢ to 60¢ per litre of the $1.70 per litre he is likely paying at stores. The difference is paid to the processors and, of course, includes the grocery store’s markup. At the farm end, it sometimes can cost the dairy farmer 30¢ per litre to produce milk, depending on feed prices which are linked to world prices and weather. This leaves approximately 20¢ per litre to service any debt, to pay unrelated production costs (capital improvements, property taxes, income taxes) and to try to provide a comfortable life for family.

Canadians are willing to pay more for a good quality product, a product which, when consumed, does not pose a potential health risk. American milk is produced by factory- type dairy farms (it is not unusual for a U.S. dairy farm to have more than 1,000 milking cows, where the average Canadian dairy farm averages around 60 cows). Ineffective U.S. controls mean that the consumer is likely to drink milk laced with bacteria — high somatic cell counts, meaning U.S. producers are shipping milk from cows that have mastitis or other udder infections and diseases. American dairy producers are also known to ship milk laced with antibiotics such as penicillin. American dairy farmers, unlike Canadian dairy farmers, are worried about the all mighty dollar.

Mr. Solomon claims that the average dairy farm is worth $1-million, after debt. There is no way that the average 60- cow dairy farm is worth that much. The value of milk quota does increase the value of a farm, but does his research, if he did any, tell him that this milk quota may not exist much longer? The United States has gone to GATT and has won a round of talks, arguing that the Canadian Milk Quota system (along with the other quota systems such as eggs and chicken) is illegal under NAFTA, as the tariffs imposed by the Canadian government and the quota system itself go against NAFTA.

If the quota system disappears, the tariffs will disappear and American dairy products will flood the Canadian market. Does he think that the Canadian government will reimburse the average dairy farmer, who just lost $700,000? Highly unlikely, as this is one subsidy that the government could not get away with.

Mr. Solomon should consider these facts and support his fellow Canadians, not subject them to a scathing article read nationwide!!!!

P. Wilson, Fonthill, Ont.

In olden times, we are told, Robin Hood robbed the rich to give to the poor, but in the Canadian version, the Canadian Dairy Board robs the poor to give to the rich (farmers) who earn considerably more than their counterparts in the United States.

Add in the poultry board and the poorest (i.e., the single mothers on marginal income) are really hit as dairy and poultry are staples in the Canadian diet.

Enter the clever federal Liberals who have a subsidy program of $80-million for single mothers so they can give the farmers their loot.

Dean Eyre, Ottawa

Mr. Solomon’s article missed a big part of the milk-price picture.

I regard milk a necessity for my children and myself. Also pizza. I also love cheese on its own. However, with sirloin steak at $9 to $13 a kilo when the sales are on, and Canadian-made Swiss cheese at $17 a kilo almost always, I simply will not buy Swiss cheese more than about once a month and I tiny chunk at that!

When the Encyclopedia Britanica CD first came out it was priced at well over $1,000 when other encyclopedia CD ROMs cost $150. Now it’s $100 with others at $50. Encyclopedia Britanica smartened up and recognized that many units sold at a reasonable price bring in much more money than few units sold at an inflated price. Cheese producers do not recognize this basic truth. Canadians would eat much more Swiss cheese if the price were $6 a kilo rather than $17 a kilo. And the dairy industry would make much more money.

Bob Morris, Professor of Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa

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