New International Farm Organization Formed

A new organization representing farmers around the world has emerged to replace a previous one which folded last year.

Nearly 60 farm groups from 42 countries last week announced the creation of the World Farmers Organization.

Delegates met March 28-29 in Brussels to develop a declaration of intent for ratification at an inaugural meeting scheduled for South Africa in September.

The World Farmers Organization replaces the International Federation of Agricultural Producers which collapsed in November 2010 amid accusations of financial mismanagement.

WFO plans to continue IFAP’s work but with a better ordinance and structure, said Ron Bonnett, Canadian Federation of Agriculture president, who sat on the organizational steering committee.

He said WFO will have “(v)ery similar objectives. It’s just that the approach, the accountability and the governance are a lot more clear.”

Bonnett said IFAP failed because of overspending and a lack of adequate oversight by its members. The organization is now bankrupt and in the hands of a trustee in France.

Formed in 1946, IFAP represented over 130 member groups in nearly 80 countries. Several Canadians served as its president, most recently Jack Wilkinson from 2002 to 2008.

But lately the organization went “way over budget in spending” and members “did not have the checks and balances to make sure spending stayed in line with the budget,” said Bonnett.

A special committee made recommendations on how to pull things back together. But they were not accepted and “everything went from bad to worse.”

Bonnett said the new organization will be more streamlined with a smaller board of directors and an executive consisting of a president and six regional vice-presidents, of which he expects to be the one representing North America.

WFO will have its head office in Rome, where the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization is also headquartered.

Bonnett said it’s important to have an international voice representing farmers’ interests because of a looming global food shortage and powerful forces seeking to dominate the agricultural discussion.

“If we’re going to meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population, we have to make sure the decisions that are made by farm bodies and the policies they develop reflect the true reality of what’s happening at the farm level.” [email protected]

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