The Canadian Pork Council, along with the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Horticultural Council, are no longer members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Not only do the departures throw a big spanner into CFA’s finances, they have some observers questioning whether it can still claim to be the country’s main national farm organization.
The CWB dropped out during 2012 citing the loss of its Prairie wheat- and barley-marketing monopoly while the Horticultural Council has fallen on hard times and couldn’t afford the annual dues. On the positive side, the Canadian Sugar Beet Producers Association reversed its plans to leave CFA after discussions with the executive.
The pork council decided last December not to renew its membership, but didn’t formally announce it. News of the move slowly filtered through the CFA membership until becoming public just before the CFA convention in Ottawa in late February.
The council and CFA are to meet in the near future to talk about ongoing co-operation but there seems little prospect of the council returning to the fold along with its $76,000 annual membership payment.
On the surface, the federation’s ongoing support for protecting supply management in trade talks seems to lie at the heart of the dispute. The pork industry took a terrible beating financially in recent years and some question how well the national organization pushed government for full support.
“Talks are taking place and the two groups have agreed to meet to discuss CPC’s decision,” an official said. “We are not planning on issuing a statement on the board decision or the current discussions.”
At the CFA conference, president Ron Bonnett said the organization has made a priority of diversifying its revenue base. The organization’s 2013 budget was set at $1.3 million, a 7.3 per cent cut from last year. It faces an operating deficit of about $80,000.
There has been speculation in the past that the pork council, the cattlemen and other livestock groups would join with the Meat Council in a counterpart to the Grain Growers of Canada. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards at the moment.
Veteran CFAers admit the loss of the three groups undercuts CFA’s position as the national voice of agriculture, but argue that it still has strong provincial associations along with the supply-managed commodities.
In his speech to the annual meeting, Bonnett noted that what CFA brings to the table is a consensus on what farmers will support. Without CFA fulfilling that role, agriculture could be at risk of getting polarized on issues.
Meanwhile the organization will focus on farm tax issues, trade policy and offering the federal government ideas for regulatory reform. “For our message to resonate with government, we must have clear, concise requests and a targeted approach.”