Keystone Agricultural Producers’ rural policy committee has met for the first time this month.
This is a new committee and a new direction being taken by KAP, to look at issues and form policy around matters that aren’t directly related to farming but nonetheless impact the farm community, said KAP president Dan Mazier.
“They impact everything,” he said.
The rationalization of emergency medical services across rural Manitoba and what that means for farmers when they need medical assistance was discussed at length at KAP’s annual meeting this winter.
KAP has also been trying to gather data around landownership and land use policy.
“As these different issues came up, there wasn’t a committee to co-ordinate all that,” Mazier said.
This new committee won’t become “a garbage can” for issues, he said. They’ve discussed its terms of reference and intend to be very focused as a policy committee.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also develops rural policy through a standing committee, he noted.
“I think this is really going to help us develop policy and overarching policy for many different things,” he said.
KAP’s new committee talks with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to see where their issues and policies may — or may not — intersect, he added.
“I think they lean on us just as much as we lean on them when it comes to that actual rural perspective and the bigger landscape approach,” he said.
There’s a need for more to raise the concerns and needs of rural areas, Mazier said.
“The bigger the network you have… and the more those networks talk the better off it is for all of us.”
A report released in 2015 by the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) is looking at the challenges faced rurally across the country pointed to policy-makers increasingly focused on sectors rather than integrated rural needs.
That report characterized Manitoba as having uneven population growth, with essential services at risk in places where populations are dropping, and challenges related to an aging population and workforce.