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Pellerin Leaves CFA Presidency

“My reputation as a farm leader has been built around the fact that I was able to bring people together to find consensus.”

– LAURENT PELLERIN

Laurent Pellerin is leaving the Canadian Federation of Agriculture after less than two years as president.

Pellerin has been named as the new chair of the Farm Products Council of Canada. His four-year term takes effect May 31.

FPCC is the regulatory body for Canada’s supply-managed dairy, egg and poultry sectors.

Pellerin replaces Bill Smirle, whose term with FPCC expired Feb. 14, 2010. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Pellerin’s appointment May 18.

Pellerin was elected to the CFA presidency in February 2009. He had been acting in the post since September 2008 after then-president Bob Friesen left to seek political office.

In an interview, Pellerin admitted to “mixed feelings” about leaving the position so soon.

He said he considered his main achievement was rebuilding relationships with the federal Conservative government, which had suffered during the latter stages of Friesen’s presidency.

Friesen tried twice to get elected as a Liberal member of Parliament. He unsuccessfully sought the Liberal nomination in Brandon-Souris during the 2004 election, taking a leave of absence to do so.

Friesen then returned to his CFA post, resigning in 2008 to run unsuccessfully against Conservative MP Steven Fletcher in the riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia.

Friesen’s political affiliation soured relationships with the federal Tories, reaching a low point at the 2008 CFA annual meeting when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz blasted farm groups, implicitly including CFA, for not supporting the government’s position on the Canadian Wheat Board’s central desk.

Pel ler in acknowledged Friesen’s Liberal connections may have given the impression of bias. But he stressed CFA itself is non-political.

“The truth is that we represent farmers all over the place in Canada.”

Ian Wishart, Keystone Agricultural Producers president, agreed relationships between Ottawa and CFA have recovered under Pellerin’s leadership.

“Improved would be the best way to describe it. Much improved,” said Wishart. “It’s definitely a lot better.”

Pellerin, 61, a resident of Becancour, Quebec, has owned a hog and grain farm since 1972. A former president of the Federation des producteurs de porcs du Quebec, he was also president of Union des producteurs agricoles, Quebec’s provincial farm group, for 14 years.

As a Quebecer, Pellerin said, the CFA presidency gave him two advantages. First, it enabled him to improve his English. Second, he was able to employ a Quebecstyle consensus-bui lding approach in dealing with farmers and government.

That should help him in his new role as chair of FPCC, currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Chicken Farmers of Canada over quota allocation, he said.

“My reputation as a farm leader has been built around the fact that I was able to bring people together to find consensus and that’s what we will do.”

Pellerin’s last day on the job at CFA is May 29. In his absence, leadership duties will be shared by first vice-president Ron Bonnett and second vice-president Garnet Etsell. Elections for all three positions will be held at CFA’s next annual meeting in February 2011. [email protected]

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