Co-op purchase of Central Dairies puts ownership in hands of farmers.
Milk like no udder N.L. dairy farmers launch co-op to localize sector
From left: Agriculture Minister Elvis Loveless aNewfoundland and Labrador Dairy Co-operative president Scott Antle and dairy farmer Crosbie Williams on Monday officially announced the formation of the group. The co-op is buying Central Dairies. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Dairy farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador have launched a new co-operative with financial support from the provincial government, which one farmer says will change the province’s industry for the better.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Dairy Co-operative will be the province’s only locally owned and operated milk processor, according to founding member Crosbie Williams. He called it a direct investment in the future of the industry, and in provincial food security.

“The farmers in our province now are going to own this industry. It’s a proud moment for us, it’s a proud moment for the industry, and it’s something that’s going to go down in our time as being historic for our industry,” Williams, a fourth-generation farmer, said Monday at the co-op’s official launch, at Pond View farms in the Goulds neighbourhood of St. John’s.

Co-op president Scott Antle said plans for the group have been in the works for at least two years, and the catalyst for officially launching the co-op is a $10-million loan from the provincial government to help it buy Central Dairies from Quebec-based processing giant Agropur.

At the Central Dairies milk processing plant in Mount Pearl, Antle said, Agropur employs 70 people, each of whom will be offered employment by the co-op. Around a dozen management positions will also be created for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, he said.

The deal hasn’t been finalized and the price hasn’t been disclosed, Williams said, but they expect to close the deal by the end of the summer.

Williams said the co-op is made up of 19 dairy farmers, who he said account for about 80 per cent of the province’s milk supply. He said farmers believe the move will increase milk production and spur creation of new products from milk made in the province.

“There’s a lot of intricacies here that are difficult for some companies to wrap their head around, but we have an intricate knowledge,” he said.

Cows feed on hay in a barn.
The co-op is made up of 19 dairy farmers, whose cows produce about 80 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador’s milk supply. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Agriculture Minister Elvis Loveless told reporters that dairy production and processing brings around $125 million to the province’s economy annually, and that government is excited by the desire of farmers to localize the industry further.

“We believe that this is a true investment in an industry that deserves it.” Loveless said. “Now it’s going to be the hands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. That’s a proud moment.”

A newly established N.L. Dairy Co-op is 19 dairy farmers who want jobs moved back to the province — and more say over the supply and sale of the product. The CBC’s Heather Gillis talks to one farmer in the new group and one who is retired and wishes it had been a reality years ago.

Hector Williams, a former dairy farmer for over 50 years, told CBC News he and his colleagues have thought about a co-operative since the 1980s. Now that the industry has changed and evolved, he said, he’s happy to finally see it a reality.

“I think it’s marvellous,” he said.

“We’re going to have more security for getting rid of our milk. We’ll get more milk and other products, and we’ll get more milk on the shelves…There’s nothing like promoting your own product.”

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