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N.L. to help dairy farmers boost forage acres

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government plans to put up $6 million over the next three years to help the province’s dairy farmers become “self-sufficient” in forage production.

Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale announced the funding Thursday, to flow through the province’s Agriculture and Agrifoods Development Fund. The province’s stake is to be matched by individual dairy farmers, for a total of $12 million devoted to land development work.

“On-farm forage production will enable farmers to make their operations more competitive and the production of industrial milk profitable,” Dunderdale said, announcing the funds at the annual meeting of the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The province’s dairy industry now imports about 22,000 tonnes of forage per year at a cost of over $4.4 million, she said. “We want to be able to produce more of that forage within the province, lowering the transportation and fuel costs for farmers.”

The initiative is expected to ensure “long-term job security” for farms’ employees and to create about 360 seasonal jobs as the land is developed. Crop input and equipment suppliers are also expected to see an increase in employment and sales during the land development process and into the future due to added production and harvesting activities.

The Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is the regulatory body for milk production and marketing in the province, had applied for funding to create and administer the land development initiative on behalf of its 37 registered producers.

The initiative is also expected to secure continued production and supply of industrial milk, as well as potential expansion, for existing processors. Increased use of industrial milk will enable the province to fulfill production requirements related to its share of the national industrial milk quota, the province said in its release.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s dairy farmers joined the National Milk Marketing Plan in 2001, getting a quota target of 31 million litres of industrial milk production annually by 2016.

If the province succeeds in reaching that allotted industrial milk quota within the National Milk Marketing Plan, the province’s dairy industry would double in size from 2001 to 2016, the government said.

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