Ontario’s last small dairy — the story of Sunrise Dairy in Wingham, 1934 – 1998

Sun rise dairy in Wingham Ontario

Early days at Sunrise Dairy in Wingham Ontario

The significance of this tale is that the demise of Ontario’s last small dairy seems to have been caused by questionable actions on the part on Ontario’s Milk Marketing Board, whose mandate is to administrating supply management of dairy products in the Province. The former Milk Marketing Board now calls itself “The Dairy Farmers of Ontario”. The following is the text of a presentation given by Bernie Bailey at Michael Schmidt’s November 18th news conference at Queen’s Park Toronto. To our knowledge, no other media besides the Bovine have yet picked up this story which was first presented more than a month ago:

“Hello, my name is Bernie Bailey, I owned the last licensed processing dairy in western Ontario. I am here to bring to your attention evidence of the manipulation and neglect of the written law by the very civil servants who are required to honourably enforce it. Although, my journey is three decades in the making, it is timely, and thus will shed light on what is happening to industries today. This story is complex, yet I am aware of time, so therefore, will focus in three main areas today.

The first is a letter that I received, long after my dairy was forced to close, as part of my investigation of what really happened, from the former Minister of Agriculture Steve Peters stating that all dairies were treated the same, this he was told by the civil servants who participated in violating the milk act.

The second is the correspondence with Beatrice and the Farm Products Marketing Commission that clearly shows that Beatrice did not meet any of the commission’s financial requirements from 1990-1997 and the fact that Parmalat took over a large dairy and it too did not meet the financial test of the commission.

The third is the ruthless, unfair, secretly planned, treatment of little Sun Rise Dairy, during this same time period, which included blatant manipulation of the milk act. This includes a demand to meet the  phantom regulation, that even the current Minister of Agriculture Mrs. Dombrowsky office cannot find; This regulation, which does not exist , was the tool used in the commission’s well planned closing of SunRise Dairy in 1997.

Michael Schmidt, Sean McGivern, Pam Killeen and Bernie Bailey at Nov. 18, 2008 press conference at Queens Park, Toronto

Left to right: Michael Schmidt, Sean McGivern, Pam Killeen and Bernie Bailey at November 18, 2008 press conference at Queen's Park, Toronto

In this presentation I will rely on documents mostly from the Freedom of Information Act.

The only place for dairies to buy milk is through the Milk Marketing Board.

First a little bit of history, a few years ago there were at least five hundred fluid milk processing plants in Ontario. The government had geographical areas in Ontario that prohibited dairies from straying out side an identified area. This was put in place so that a small dairy would not process milk and send it to one large store in the city and ignore the many small customers in its own area.

In the eighties the big city dairies started to expand out side of the cities to supply the grocery wholesalers who wanted to expand. This became very lucrative for the big retail changes as they would enter a small to medium populated town and with volume buying they could lower the price of products beneath the cost to local stores which led to the closing of locally owned stores.

The price of food went up in small towns. This practice was repeated over and over gain in Ontario. The big dairies had to follow their prized customers and to do this they would buy one dairy in each zone giving them a license. As a small processing dairy I would expand delivery to other towns and supply independent stores but I was boxed in by the zones and so I applied for an extension on my license to go into other zones. I received it, but the big dairies called a meeting with the Tribunal Board and the Commission took the license extension away from Sun Rise Dairy.

I had other small dairies calling and questioning the proceedings. I realized most were in the same predicament as Sun Rise Dairy. Small diary owners started having informal meetings and many agreed that if I could arrange a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, we as a group, could discuss this problem with him. It is important to note that we knew that the Farm Marketing Commission would not support us. It is now apparent that the Farm Products Marketing Commission was only interested in big dairies, or as we have come to know it, globalization. However, armed with the Steward Lane report, a dozen small dairy owners, met with the then Minister of Agriculture, Jack Riddell; he made the changes that we asked for and small dairies grew and prospered.

In 1995, I had formed the Independent Dairy and Ice Cream Association which had several members. I became its voice in government affairs in 1996, but this lasted only a short time. With in six weeks I was forced out of business by the Farm Product Marketing Commission and the Ontario Milk Marketing Board. The IDIA never held another meeting.

As you will see in the information package The Minister of Agriculture was told that all dairies were treated with the same criteria, but she did not know that I had the Beatrice and Sun Rise information, courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act, which shows exactly the opposite.

Here is a simplified timeline:

1) 1995—Beatrice still not meeting financial test

2) 1995–Commission excepts Beatrice’s situation as there is a letter of INTENT from the bank that is dated August 30/1990

3) Commission accepts Beatrice’s offer, but it does not meet the regulation.

4) Beatrice is in bad financial shape, the Bank withdraws its letter of COMFORT, and the milk board is notified.

5) Jim Wheeler coaches Mr. Core who is the chairman of the milk marketing board and also states to Beatrice that he has a strong desire to be part of their solution

6) Bank freezes Beatrice’s accounts and now the Commission is putting their staff and financial adviser to work for Beatrice.

7) The commission has asked Beatrice to catch up on payments

8) April 10, 1996 still trying to get Beatrice to get payments caught up.

9) May 1996 Beatrice agrees to get caught up on payments and the bank agrees not to close company.

10) August 1996 Parmalat offers to buy Beatrice

11)   February 13, 1997 Bill Moore states that Beatrice now meets the commission’s financial requirements, after seven years.

12) April, 2007, Bill Moore states that Parmalat has bought Beatrice

Parmalat was at risk as early as 1997, but was allowed to buy Beatice and Ault.

Now let’s see how Sun Rise Dairy was treated.

Now let’s see how they treated Sun Rise

1) Diane Coates Milne of the commission sends me a letter stating that they will pull my license because of a report on my products not meeting standards

This is only a competitor report from Ault.  Richard Bird the Director of Dairy inspection Branch, not the Farm Marketing Commission Staff, should deal with this, but the commission by passed his authority

2) The commission leaks the letter from Diane Coates Milne to my customers through Sealtest sales reps

3) The marketing board tells the commission that I did not pay my bill and yet it is paid. I am not called, if so, I would be able to prove it was paid, see documents.

4) The commission held several secret meeting without my knowledge or participation were Bill Moore says, that I am stating that I am going to pay the bill in the future, but again, as you will see, it was paid. It is important to note that I did not find out about any of this until many years later. I obtained letters which went back and forth between the Ontario Milk Marketing Board and the Farm Products Marketing Commission, discussing a missed payment, which was in fact paid in full.

JC Laurie writes Bill Moore on June 4.1996 stating payment now received and yet on the Ontario Milk Marketing Boards own statement it shows paid on April 30,1969 and note that while all these meetings take place Sun Rise does one and a half million dollars with them and no problems occur.

5) All this fails to get rid of my small dairy, so they invent/manipulate a policy, the phantom policy, that they say calls for — a letter of credit and, note there is a letter of comfort in your package, but the Commission never asked for this

6) The commission violates the milk act, holds several meetings without letting me participate and they never give me a hearing to defend myself

7) The Milk and Cream fund shut down right after closing Sun Rise and Bill Moore retires to work for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario

8) And now you will read in the accompanying documents that the commission/tribunal do not have to meet with me as I do not have a dairy any more.

For over thirty years our family ran a successful dairy; it was forced into closure because I formed the IDIA and the civil servants did not want to be bothered with the little dairies. Sun Rise Dairy was destroyed in fifteen days at the hands of civil servants who manipulated falsified and lied about the milk act and successfully covered it up until now. As a hard working resident and employer in Ontario, I did not deserve this.”

Bernie Bailey 1-519-357-4668

The dairy had come a long way by 1995

Sunrise Dairy had come a long way by 1995


Filed under News

8 responses to “Ontario’s last small dairy — the story of Sunrise Dairy in Wingham, 1934 – 1998

  1. thebovine

    For more on questionable actions by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario organization, see this earlier story regarding irregularities with regard to quota transfer: https://thebovine.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/afraa-tribunal-finds-dfo-action-not-fair-and-reasonable-orders-repayment-of-803753-in-milk-quota-transfer-tax/

  2. gordon

    merry christmas
    thanks for all that you are doing to let the little guy have a choice
    happy new year.


  3. Pingback: Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) dispute tribunal’s decision, refuse to refund 15% quota sales clawback to farmers, and spend money on appeal lawyers instead « The Bovine

  4. Pingback: “Canadian Cheese” to be made from internationally-sourced milk solids instead of Canadian fluid milk? « The Bovine

  5. markymark

    Oh, just great!!! This man now runs our town, let’s seem him run that into the ground as well.

  6. bill mole

    I use to buy Sunrise milk at a small independent store in Kincardine. Both are gone. A shame.

  7. Jess

    If anyone wants to know the true History behind Sunrise Dairy …I was there

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