Industry organizations and affiliates work together at a national and provincial level to ensure the viability of the industry and to promote dairy products that are nutritious, affordable, and assured to be of the highest quality possible.
The local dairy industry, which is operated under a controlled, quota-based system (see Supply Management below), is large enough to supply our province with fluid milk while contributing to keep Canada stocked with domestic cheese, yogurt and other processed milk products. In fact, in 2009, BC’s 545 dairy producers produced over 650 million litres of milk, and per capita consumption of fluid milk in the province was 77.04 litres in 2009. The milk is handled by one of the 33 processors in BC, which process for consumption in both the national and provincial markets. The province is home to approximately 72,000 dairy cows.
When taking into account direct employment on dairy farms and dairy processing plants, as well as the associated wholesale, retail and supply trades, the BC dairy industry provides employment for over 11,000 people. The contribution to the provincial and federal economies from this industry is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion per year.
While milk production in British Columbia is concentrated largely in the Fraser Valley, there are seven other milk-producing regions in the province, making dairy one of the most regionally diverse sectors of BC agriculture. These regions are: North and South Vancouver Island, Kamloops/Okanagan, Peace River, Kootenays, Bulkley Valley, and the Cariboo region.
Agriculture is an important component of British Columbia’s economy, and dairy production is at the top of the list, with dairy farm cash receipts over $490 million in 2009. In fact, even though BC has just 5.9% of the national Market Share Quota (MSQ), the province contributes 9.1% of national farm cash receipts, primarily because BC dairy farms are some of the largest in the country, with an average farm size of approximately 135 milking cows. Dairy products grew 31% as a farm commodity from 1996 to 2006.
Dairy producers care about the quality of their milk. That is why one of our main priorities is the proAction Initiative, developed by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This on-farm safety program evolved from the Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) program which helped producers prevent, monitor and reduce food safety risks on their farms to make BC milk among the highest quality across the country.
The proAction Initiative, together with the former CQM program and the dedicated dairy producer's of BC, work to promote quality Canadian dairy products. The standards for dairy farming are constantly evolving--with programs such as these in place dairy farmers continue to ensure that the milk 100% Canadian quality.
Environmental protection is an important issue to dairy farmers today, and BC farmers, on average, invest the highest amount in environmental protection per farm in all of Canada. As well, the natural efficiency of the dairy farm system has proven to be beneficial for the environment. Take, for example, the recycling of manure for fertilizer, or the permanent soil cover created by the forage crops that cows eat, which helps to prevent soil erosion.
The Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) was introduced to complement and enhance the current environmental stewardship practices of British Columbian producers. Some of the aims and objectives of the plan include:
• Encouraging farmers and ranchers to be better stewards of the land
• Providing a proactive process to help farmers and ranchers identify environmental opportunities and possible risks on their own land
• Managing potential conflicts between agriculture and environmental interests
For more information on EFP see our Industry Initiatives section.
Another important issue in dairy farming today is animal health and welfare. With such a large average herd size, BC dairy farms require an exceedingly high level of management – which results in an impeccable quality track record. The province’s Milk Industry Act requires that all farmers maintain suitable facilities for safe and clean milk production and handling, as well as adequate housing, waste handling and milking management for cattle care and comfort. The excellent management practices adopted are reflected in the province’s raw milk quality.
The dairy industry is one of several areas of Canadian agriculture which operates under a system of supply management. To ensure that production of Canadian food products such as milk, poultry, and eggs meets the needs of consumers, supply management establishes production levels to meet demand. The supply management system is recognized by the Canadian and British Columbian governments as a proven solution to maintaining price stability and ensuring that Canada is able to meet the needs of consumers without being dependent on imported products. Supply management helps to support local agriculture without using subsidies from consumer tax dollars. Consumers benefit from having an uninterrupted supply of high quality dairy products at stable prices. For more information, see Supply Management: A Success Story under details in the Overview of Supply Management section.
Dairy Industry Research and Education Committee
BC dairy farmers believe strongly in moving the dairy industry forward and leading the way to new innovations and developments. That is why our support in the Dairy Industry Research and Education Fund is of great importance to us. The main purpose of the Dairy Industry Research and Education Fund is to invest in education, research and develop projects which directly benefit the dairy farmers in British Columbia and to ensure that the results are communicated and implemented at the farm level. For more information, see Research and Education under Industry Initiatives
A Final Word
Both provincially and nationally, dairy farming makes a positive contribution to the economy and the environment. The industry supplies consumers all across the country with high quality, fairly priced, world-renowned Canadian dairy products.