UPA president Lacasse won’t seek re-election

The farmer in charge of Quebec’s overarching and politically influential farmers’ organization has decided not to seek a third term.

Christian Lacasse, president of the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), said Tuesday he will not defend the title at the organization’s annual meeting later this month.

His decision clears the field for the only other declared candidate by Tuesday’s deadline, Thetford Mines dairyman Marcel Groleau.

Pierre Lemieux and Denis Bilodeau, the UPA’s first and second vice-presidents respectively, now sit unopposed and will be re-acclaimed to their posts at the UPA’s convention, which runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 in Quebec City.

Lacasse, a dairyman at St-Vallier de Bellechasse in the province’s Chaudiere-Appalaches region, announced his decision Tuesday through the UPA’s news organ, La terre de chez nous.

It was "preferable," he said, that UPA members wouldn’t have to go through what would have been the organization’s fourth presidential election process in seven years.

Groleau, currently president of the Federation des producteurs de lait du Quebec and a member of the UPA’s executive council, had run against Lacasse for the UPA leadership in 2009 and was narrowly defeated.

Lacasse, a UPA director for 15 years, was first elected to lead the organization in 2007 — a surprise loss for longtime president Laurent Pellerin, who had defeated Lacasse in 2005.

Lacasse, who also currently sits as first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said Tuesday he’s convinced that in the longer-term view, back-to-back-to-back elections for the UPA presidency would only be harmful to the organization.

Other groups, he said, are trying in various ways to divide the province’s farmers when they need to stand united more than ever.

Lacasse saw the UPA through a period of heavy criticism starting in 2008, when the report of a provincial commission on the future of agriculture in Quebec urged "pluralism in agriculture organizations" and an end to the UPA’s monopoly as the province’s farmer association.

By its own estimation, the UPA’s membership includes almost 95 per cent of the province’s farmers.

Lacasse said Tuesday he plans to spend more time with his family, noting his wife will appreciate his return to full-time farming.

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