Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter says the leadership within Canada’s hog and cattle industries isn’t doing enough to defend producers from inadequate government action.
“For the life of me I don’t know why the hog and beef industry isn’t standing up for themselves,” the Prince Edward Island MP told the 40th annual meeting of the National Farmers Union (NFU) here Nov. 26. “When I get up and ask a question in the House (of Commons) or (NDP agriculture critic) Alex (Atamanenko) does, do you know what’s thrown back in our face? A quote from the farm leadership that things are great on the farm.”
Canada’s hog industry has never seen a downturn as bad as the current one and cattle producers aren’t far behind. Easter said hog and cattle organization leaders are afraid to challenge the Conservative government.
“If you don’t agree with them the door is slammed in your face,” Easter said. “That’s not what democracy is supposed to be all about. A democracy is supposed to be debates, and ideas and coming to conclusions.”
In an interview outgoing NFU president Stewart Wells said the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and its affiliates are just as guilty when it comes to defending the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Wells said leaders of those organizations have said privately they agree with the NFU that the government tried to remove the CWB’s single-desk marketing powers illegally. But they also said they didn’t speak out because some of their members are anti-CWB.
Easter criticized the federal government’s two-pronged plan to support hog farmers. It’s inhumane to have farmers bid against each other to get money to exit the business, he said. As for Ottawa’s loan guarantees the government itself gets paid first for advance payments already made to hog farmers, he said. In addition, it just adds to farmers’ debt. According to Easter, AgriStability could have been adjusted to serve hog producers better.
Easter, who has been an MP for 16 years, said he has never seen so much “divisiveness, bitterness and indeed hate,” in Parliament.
The NFU has stuck to its principles no matter the reaction of governments and should be proud of its accomplishments the past 40 years, he said.
Easter, who served as NFU president, credited the organization for helping him become an effective MP.
“I really believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today in terms of having the opportunity to fight the fight in the Parliament of Canada if it wasn’t for the knowledge and the skills and experience I learned in many positions in the farmers’ union,” Easter said in an interview. “It is an educational organization. It has sound principles and it rattles the halls of power when it takes the position that it does.”
All the federal parties were invited to bring greetings to the NFU’s 40th annual meeting, but only representatives from the Green party, Liberal party and New Democratic Party came. [email protected]