Central Alberta man back at helm of Alberta Milk

A Ponoka dairy farmer has returned to lead the province’s producer organization Alberta Milk.

Ponoka dairy farmer Tom Kootsra returns to the helm as chairperson for Alberta Milk.

A local dairy farmer has returned to lead the province’s producer organization.

Tom Kootstra, who operates the 145 animal operation, Stradow Farms near Ponoka, was selected as the chairman of Alberta Milk back in November following a mandatory one year break from the job. He served as board chairman of the non-profit farmer-driven producer and marketing group from 2013 to 2015.

Kootstra has been on the board for nine years and expects 2017 to be an important year for dairy farmers in Alberta and Canada.

“As most know, milk is a supply-managed commodity and with demand remaining steady there isn’t much volatility in the market. That said, there remains growth especially for high fat dairy content products that consumers now seem to prefer,” Kootstra said in an interview last month.

And that market growth may continue as the national ingredient strategy an agreement between the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Dairy Commission is slated to be formalized with potential implementation next month. The tentative deal was reached back in July with Canada’s processing industry, but negotiations on the specifics have been ongoing.

“It’s something we have been working on for two years and if all goes well, it can implemented in February,” he said.

“The hope is it will modernize the industry through a significant change in the structure going forward.”

The one big change is in how products are priced more competitively to encourage more use of Canadian ingredients by Canadian processors. While specific details haven’t been released, the hope is the deal will also better harmonize policies across the country.

“Currently, a number of processors import milk protein concentrate and this deal should mean more ‘Canadian’ products. As well, it should (build) the confidence the industry has in its domestic product,” explained Kootstra.

“However, it is entirely possible this could be challenged by Canada’s various trade partners and, while that vulnerability is one risk of this deal, it’s one everyone feels they need to take.”

In addition to the change at the top, Alberta Milk has seen one other change to the board’s executive with Gezinus Martens stepping into the role as second vice chairman.