Laurent Pellerin is the new president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture succeeding Bob Friesen who stepped down last year to run unsuccessfully for the Liberals in the general election.
Pellerin, who had been CFA first vice-president for several years, defeated Ron Bonnett, CFA second vice-president and former president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It was the first contested CFA presidency since 1985. The results were not released and Bonnett asked the decision be considered unanimous. Garnett Etsell of British Columbia was selected second vice-president.
A hog producer and former president of Quebec’s Union des Producteurs Agricole, Pellerin said he wanted to see CFA’s membership grow so it could better speak for Canadian farmers. The organization also needs to get the provinces more involved in promoting agriculture in Canada.
It should also work more with processors and exporters to ensure that increased value added is done with Canadian farm products, he said. Canada needs a plan to get more agriculture and food-related jobs.
CFA must also speak out on behalf of beef producers who are suffering yet another bout of ruinous prices. “They’ve never recovered from BSE and now they’re probably in worse shape.”
The balding dark-haired Pellerin managed to turn the usual quips about all the grey heads at farm meetings into a hearty laugh from the delegates when he said he hoped to finish his time as president as a grey-haired gentlemen like his predecessor and not end up bald.
Pellerin thanked the meeting and said his first job was to convince Bonnett to stand as first vice-president. Bonnett had told some delegates he was thinking of retiring if he didn’t win the presidency. After long chats with Friesen and other delegates after the presidential vote was announced, he decided to stay.
His message to the delegates was to get focused on the future by improving safety nets and environmental programs that will allow farmers to build profitability and sustainability into their operations. “We have to look for new opportunities, new products and new markets.”
He also urged the delegates “to make the politicians and the public aware of our contributions to the economy. We have to position agriculture as important to the economic and environmental health of the country.”
“We can’t always be doom and gloom.”