Minister MacAulay announces $2.7-million to proAction program
The federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay was on hand at Ferme Geranik near St. Albert to announce a $2.7-million investment into the proAction program on Mon., Jan. 28. Posing for the photo op were Christian, Jasmin and Ferme Geranik owner, Gerald Benoit, Minister MacAulay, Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Francis Drouin, MP of Glengarry Prescott Russell. Moore photo

Talking shop
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Lawrence MacAulay, a former PEI dairy farmer, was talking shop with Ferme Geranik co-owner Jasmin Benoit during the dairy related funding annoucement in St. Albert on Jan. 28.
Van Dusen photo

ST. ALBERT – Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay chose the backdrop of one of eastern Ontario’s most up to date farming operations Jan. 28 to announce a $2.7-million federal investment to enhance public trust in dairy production.

Speaking in the office at Ferme Geranik in front of windows overlooking the 135-head Holstein herd, MacAulay explained the money will be funneled through Dairy Farmers of Canada’s six-year-old “proAction” quality assurance program designed to demonstrate to consumers that milk products meet the highest standards for quality and safety.

“The delicious dairy products we enjoy every day come from dedicated family farms and businesses like this one,” MacAulay commented as Geranik patriarch Gerald Benoit looked on. “They share a commitment to protect the environment for future generations while providing the best care for their animals.”

A former Prince Edward Island dairy and potato farmer, it was clear MacAulay felt right at home at Geranik which boasts three DeLaval robotic milkers with room for a fourth, a fully automated manure removal system, and a bio digester. Standing close to the herd, the minister spent several minutes talking shop with co-owner Jasmin Benoit and several more minutes after the announcement in a tête-a-tête with Gerald Benoit.

“I know from experience that it’s always busy on a dairy farm. This operation is cutting-edge. You’re leading the way in sustainable agriculture, producing green energy as well as high-quality fertilizer for the crops.”

With a nod to Francis Drouin, Liberal MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and member of Parliament’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Standing Committee, MacAulay emphasized that the tri-counties – which include St. Albert – are home to some of the best dairy farms in the country and the world.

“Across Canada, dairy producers like the Benoit family drive over $14-billion in sales on and off the farm. That includes almost $6-billion in Ontario alone.”

On hand for the announcement, DFC president Pierre Lampron said the federal cash injection into its proAction program will help ensure the industry meets the expectations of consumers for decades to come. Through the program, projects are undertaken to help the industry develop and adopt systems, standards and tools supporting health and safety claims about agricultural and agri-food products.

The proAction approach requires producers to document their adherence to the program. Farms are inspected by third-party experts to make sure they’re adhering to the quality, safety, animal welfare, traceability, biosecurity, and environmental mantra.

In a thinly veiled reference to the revised Canada Food Guide which gives dairy products short shrift, Lampron said the ultimate objective is to remind Canadians that milk is a superior food processed according to the highest standards providing a good source of nutrition beneficial to overall health.

MacAulay called proAction an important key in building and maintaining the public trust vital to the success of the industry: “The goal is to give the industry the tools to tell the public about the great things they’re doing. In today’s world, it’s no longer enough to do the right thing… we also have to show that we’re doing it.”