Dairy farmers from across the country witnessed the signing of an international declaration at the recent Dairy Farmers of Canada annual general meeting.
“Last October, we did make commitments as a billion-strong community, in terms of what we would do to push dairy forward, to listen to and help deliver those sustainable development goals,” said Judith Bryans, chief executive with Dairy UK and president of the International Dairy Federation.
Bryans delivered the keynote speech to about 340 attendees at the Dairy Farmers of Canada conference and was one of the signatories to the Rotterdam Declaration in Edmonton.
The declaration commits signatory countries to meet sustainability goals set out by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. These include promoting sustainable practices to its dairy farmers, addressing “environmental degradation and climate change,” and “pay particular attention to the needs of family farmers, smallholders, and pastoralists.”
“The United Nations has decided it wants to challenge governments and it wants to look at sustainability from a social perspective and an economic perspective and an environmental perspective,” Bryans told the audience.
“Dairy has to be part of that story, particularly since the signing of the Paris Accord (on climate change). Because governments have made commitments, they have targets.”
The declaration, proclaimed in the Netherlands in October, is a milestone, said Gilles Froment, a senior vice-president of Parmalat Canada and president of the international federation’s Canadian chapter.
“It embodies the importance of dairy in feeding the world with safe and sustainable products,” he said.
Canada is the 10th nation to come on board. (Others that have committed or will sign shortly include China, Israel, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Japan, France, Finland, and Zimbabwe.)
Other representatives signing the declaration in Edmonton included Wally Smith, the outgoing president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, and Jacques Lefebvre, president and chief executive officer of the Dairy Processors of Canada.
The declaration also commits dairy farmers to play a key role in food security and poverty reduction.
“Our global story, we should all know this, right?” said Bryans. “One billion people put their heads on the pillow at night and they’ll have had a livelihood from dairy. We feed six billion people.”
Twenty per cent of the agricultural land in the world is used for dairy, and dairy farmers look after 363 million cows, she added.
“While most farmers have two to three cows, we have a place in this world and our story is that we are providing the world with safe and sustainable products,” she said.
The full dairy declaration is at www.dairydeclaration.org.
Also at the AGM, Pierre Lampron of Quebec was elected the new president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Dairy Farmers of Manitoba president David Wiens continues as Western Canada’s rep on the five-person executive.