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$1.5 million in subsidies to cheese co-op

$1.5 million in subsidies to cheese co-op

By Jonathan Martin

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) will invest up to $1.5 million into the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative as part of the federal Dairy Processing Investment Fund.

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the investment at the co-op yesterday.

Marie-Claude Bibeau meets with members of the St. Albert Cheese Co-op.

AAFC Twitter photo

The feds created the Dairy Fund Investment Program to help Canadian dairy processors work with market changes stemming from the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Gérald Benoît, president of the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative, said the money will help relieve some of the pressure his organization feels. But it’s tough to stay competitive in the newly shuffled dairy market, he added.

“The government gave a piece of our market to (the United States),” he said to Farms.com.  “It’s sad to see it go this way. Now we need these subsidies just to remain competitive.”

Under the USMCA, the United States has access to around 3.6 per cent of Canada’s dairy market. Benoît also criticized CETA for giving only half of the duty-free dairy imported from Europe to Canadian dairy processors. The other half goes to other stakeholders.

Nonetheless, Benoît appreciates the feds’ move toward subsidizing dairy producers.

“It helps, for sure. That’s the reason we were so happy at the announcement yesterday,” he said.

The St. Albert Cheese Co-op will use the investment money to overhaul its facilities. Everything from dairy processing machinery to office equipment will get an upgrade in the hopes of increasing plant productivity and efficiency.

The government’s $1.5-million investment will make up between 20 and 30 per cent of the total cost of the plant’s overhaul, Benoît estimated.

So far, AAFC has approved 32 dairy processors for funding under the Dairy Fund Investment Program, which adds up to a total investment of $34.7 million, a Monday government press release said.

“I’m glad (the government is) doing it,” Benoît said.  “Every little bit helps.”

R-J-Seymour/ iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

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