Farmers well represented by commodity groups
I am replying to your recent article regarding farmer’s voice splintered. I am a grain farmer from Alberta growing wheat, canola and peas and have been involved in the canola and newly formed wheat commission in this province for the past 20 years. I take exception to your comments because I live and actively participate in this sector and can honestly say that the lobby and investment efforts in the grains and oilseeds sector creates value to producers.
CFA has always poorly represented the grains and oilseeds sector. It is funded by supply management to a large extent and that’s who it represents, especially at the WTO trade talks. I know because I have attended the last three World Trade Organization negotiations and left every time wondering how CFA claims to represent all farmers.
You also claim that commodity groups have similar functions in research and market development. This is ridiculous when you compare canola, an oilseed crop, and wheat, for example. They are entirely different crops with completely different end uses. The canola industry works closely with all of industry i.e. the Canola Council of Canada, which I think you are well aware of yet fail to acknowledge. The Canadian Canola Growers Association, which is also based in Winnipeg, represents all growers throughout Canada and also does the administration for cash advances for all commodities. It is also a member of GGC (Grain Growers of Canada), which is based in Ottawa and lobbies on behalf of all grain and oilseed producers in Canada. The Alberta Wheat Commission is also a member, along with numerous other commodity groups throughout Canada.
GGC has never had a higher profile than now and has the ear of the minister of agriculture because it is proactive and looking for solutions, instead of protecting supply management, which CFA is primarily focused on.
The wheat and barley industry is currently working on forming national value chain councils similar to the successful CCC. Grains and oilseed producers are represented better now in Ottawa than they have ever been because of unified lobbying by commodity groups represented by GGC. They share an office with CCC and CCGA to be efficient as well.
Finally checkoffs are not costing producers $20,000 per year; they are approximately $1.20/acre, therefore are approximately $6,000 on a 5,000-acre farm. This is an excellent return because it provides value to producers by investing in research, market development and lobbying efforts for the grains and oilseeds sector. And it is refundable for accountability.
No need to start another farm group
I read with disappointment but not surprise Danny Penner’s plea for a unified farmer voice printed in the March 14 Manitoba Co-operator. I was surprised when the next week’s editorial pondered some of Mr. Penner’s points, but still failed to mention the very capable non-partisan, non-commodity specific voice we already have in the National Farmers Union. OK, maybe still not surprised, but annoyed.
The NFU has members of every political stripe and nearly every type of agricultural production across Canada. We are who you are and we’re already up and running. Our capable leaders and resourceful office staff have produced many in-depth analyses of agricultural policy and economics and has been proven right time after time.
The collapse of the protein premium in CWRS, the downturn in the durum outlook, and the never-was-ever-really-going-to-be-built pasta plant in Regina have earned the NFU a bittersweet “we told you so” about the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board. Our next warning is about the soon-to-land-on-us Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement ( CETA). This agreement trades away much of our sovereinty for almost nothing in return.
The CETA report and many others are on the NFU website, as are our phone numbers. Give the site a once-over. Call the NFU director closest to you and give yourself a voice.
NFU Director Region 6