“We need an
effective national organization that helps farmers increase their well-being.”
– DON KNOERR
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and former president Don Knoerr says it’s lasted that long because it continues to find common ground among Canadian farmers.
“Farming has changed tremendously during the last four decades,” he told the CFA’s annual meeting via a telephone link from his British Columbia home. “Farms are much bigger and technology has completely changed what we do.
“But the basis of the CFA is the same – we need an effective national organization that helps farmers increase their well-being,” added Knoerr who was president from 1985 to 1991. Before that he worked on trade policy for the CFA, which helped craft Canada’s balanced position in international trade talks that seeks to create more market opportunities for exporters while protecting the supply-managed sector.
One way CFA plans to highlight its anniversary is by launching a new web page in April that was designed
with help from students in Carleton University’s School of Journalism. One suggestion from the students is to raise farmer awareness of what CFA does. CFA plans to do outreach activity with its member organizations to get them to highlight CFA activities.
CFA plans to have a special banquet as part of its October board of directors’ meeting and is holding a photo contest as well as planning other awards.
Cindy Schickedanz, who was 2009 winner of the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture contest, said more young people need to be encouraged to take up farming. “We have to make Canadians proud of agriculture.
“The industry also has to become more receptive to women and accept they have a role in farming,” she says. “Right now, it’s hard as a woman to get respect.”
One of the big changes in CFA occurred in the 1980s when budgetary problems forced the group, which until then had consisted mainly of provincial associations, to open its doors to commodity groups. In addition to provincial bodies, CFA now has 10 commodity members and one co-operative organization.
Former pres ident Jack Wilkinson (1993-99) says CFA has “had a tremendous influence on the changes that have taken place in agriculture. It now is time once again for CFA to influence desperately needed changes in the food industry. The concentration on the food chain challenges farmers’ ability to generate the types of profits we need to go forward.”
Bob Friesen, president from 1999 to 2008, says the remarkable aspect of CFA is its “amazing ability to work together in the face of tremendous diversity amongst members, and in the wake of not always being well respected by the country’s decision makers. CFA members, relentless in their fight for a better industry, have always known who and what they were fighting for. Farmers, and their needs, have always been the boss.”