Read our 2016-17 annual report.

Chairman’s Message
Tom Kootstra, Chairman of the Board

I first want to express my appreciation to the delegates and directors who elected me to return to the Board of Directors and as chairman. I am proud to once again serve the industry and represent Alberta Milk. The 2016-17 year was described as a year in transition for a lot of reasons. Our organization and industry continued to evolve and adapt to our changing environment and it’s necessary that we progress along with it to continue to pursue and achieve our goals.

With sustained consumer preferences for natural dairy products such as butter, cream, yogurt and cheese, we continued to enjoy a growing market. In Alberta, there was a seven per cent quota increase and producers also had the opportunity to capitalize on 25 incentive days. Our total milk production for the year was 740.7 million litres compared to 725.0 million litres last year. The growth has been both a welcome and a challenge as we work to produce the milk required to meet the market demand. Both production and processing facilities are reaching their capacity and in turn, investments on farms and by processors are being planned.

Following the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) the federal government announced the CETA Transition Program for Dairy. The program has two elements the Dairy Farm Investment Program and the Dairy Processing Investment Program. Both programs were extremely welcomed in an effort to help Canadian dairy farmers and the processing sector improve efficiency and productivity, as well as diversify their products to pursue new market opportunities. 

To the many naysayers – namely in the media or economic institutions – that say supply management does not work, that it is not progressive and needs to be abolished, I say they have just not taken the time to really understand our industry. The innovation and the progressive changes that were implemented this year are far reaching and long lasting. As of February 1, 2017, the agreement reached with processors on how to better utilize all components of milk was implemented. This change introduces a new class for ingredients and changes the long standing structural surplus removal programs administered by the Canadian Dairy Commission. These are impressive accomplishments that will provide stability in our industry for years to come. And they build on the progress we’ve made since supply management was introduced fifty years ago.

Our strategic priority of advocating for our industry, supply management, and building consumer trust remains paramount for our organization. Alberta Milk in partnership with the poultry industry has actively pursued our government relations strategies. All targets have been met including hosting a reception with 39 MLAs where we were able to showcase our industries and gain their support for supply management. Producers also continued to advocate and build consumer trust. Over 1,200 people attended the two Breakfast on the Dairy Farm events held in central and southern Alberta. These events provide an on-farm experience to the general public and take over 100 volunteers to coordinate.

We continue to enhance our relationships and partnerships in the industry in order to advance our industry. These partnerships require trust and mutual respect and I believe that we have made major strides. The Western Milk Pool members have made great progress as we work collaboratively to deal with challenges and opportunities. We jointly worked to attract new processing by agreeing to a collaborative approach in providing milk allocations and transportation coordination. In January, Alberta Milk transferred our marketing and nutrition education activities to Dairy Farmers of Canada to create greater efficiencies and increased value for the producer funded marketing and nutrition education activities. However, we were very concerned to learn in July that Dairy Farmers of Ontario was going in the opposite direction when they announced they were withdrawing their funds from DFC for these very programs. We however remain committed to support the newly developed DFC master brand for dairy product promotion and marketing.

The call for a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) review initiated by the United States has caused considerable pressure on our industry. We feel that the changes needed in other areas of NAFTA can be achieved without having any negative impacts on us. We are very encouraged with the level of support the federal government has provided to us during the early stages of the negotiations.

This year we welcomed three new directors to the Board. I want to express my appreciation to outgoing directors Allan Child, Albert Kamps, Wim Ruysch and Arnold Van Os. At the same time we welcomed Pieter Ijff, Stuart Boeve and Gert Schriver to the Board and we valued their input throughout the year.

Thanking the many stakeholders, industry partners, fellow board members, our elected delegates and the staff at Alberta Milk never gets tiring for me. Without the dedication of hundreds across the dairy industry and within government, we would not be able to achieve all we have.