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Aid refusal fuels flames of western alienation

Our History: November 1999

Farm income, or the lack of it, dominated our pages in the fall of 1999. The November 4 issue reported on angry comments from a group of western farmers who had visited Ottawa to ask for $1.3 billion in aid. They met with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief and other ministers, and were reportedly told by Vanclief that farm income was not as bad as they claimed. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow also reacted angrily, with Romanow warning that refusing assistance was fuelling the flames of western alienation.

U.S. politicians apparently needed less convincing — on Oct. 22 President Bill Clinton signed a record $8.9-billion farm aid package, including $5.54 billion in direct cash aid to grain and cotton growers.

At a KAP general council meeting in Portage, there was discussion of addressing the low price problem by following the law of supply and demand, and president Ian Wishart floated an idea to pay farmers for setting aside farmland to reduce overproduction.

Livestock producers were also facing problems — a round of “citizen hearings” on the pork industry heard many criticisms from the general public, and producers attending Manitoba Cattle Producer Association local meetings heard that the organization’s coffers were being drained by its $400,000 share of the legal bills in fighting U.S. anti-dumping duties.

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