Wrapping up a landmark year for CFA
By Ron Bonnett, CFA President
2010 was a landmark year for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA). CFA celebrated its 75th Anniversary, and took the opportunity to reflect on its long history of consensus-building among Canadian farm organizations. This primary objective is every bit as vital now as it was when CFA founders held their first meeting back in November 1935.
With the diverse interests that make up Canada's vibrant agriculture sector comes the essential task of finding common ground. Canada has nearly 230,000 farms, varying in size, commodity, and location across our vast landscape. The needs of a rancher in Alberta may not match those a dairy producer in Quebec; however the different perspectives they bring to the organization form what is arguably CFA's greatest strength: the big-picture, the national industry view-one that is ideally suited to inform federal government during policy development and program consultation.
We need only to think of high-profile topics such as PotashCorp ownership and fertilizer prices, the increased demand for food safety assurances, and the upcoming design of new business risk management programs to see where farmers benefit from CFA's advocacy program. In international trade talks in particular, CFA has been a vocal proponent of Canada's balanced trade approach, calling on government to not negotiate for one sector at the expense of another. CFA also called for increased government investment into public-domain agricultural research, which is essential to foster Canada's long-term competitiveness.
Looking ahead to 2011, we anticipate exciting opportunities for farm groups to define their vision of a sustainable agriculture industry. Governments in Canada and abroad are devoting more attention to food security, which naturally leads to a broader discussion on the vital role of farmers. In this context, primary producers have been acknowledged for their distinct place at the intersection of various roads leading to sustainable development and food security. It all points to the need for Canada to maintain -- and enhance -- its agricultural infrastructure. And of course, the investment is returned many times over. Agriculture contributes approximately 8 per cent of our GDP, and accounts for 1 in 8 jobs -- a respectable slice of our economy, and a crucial link connecting urban and rural Canada.
As recently pointed out in a series by the Globe and Mail, Canada has the potential to become an even stronger leader in world agri-food production. The debate on how best to achieve this status will undoubtedly surface in the federal election set for this spring. Most parties are already in election mode, meaning farmers have the chance now to start making their views known to politicians. Political radars are up and running, scanning the environment for vote-turning issues.
CFA is already calling for governments to safeguard its strategic investments in our sector. Farmers' goal is to earn their revenue from the marketplace and -- with program and marketing structures soundly in place to mitigate uncontrollable economic and climatic factors --
they will succeed. However, the Finance Minister is already downplaying expectations of the next federal budget, meaning farm groups will have to work even more closely together to make agriculture a priority.
Adapting to modern world markets while satisfying customers at the regional level is no simple feat, but farmers, ever accustomed to the winds of change, are up to the task. To help foster the future of the farming, CFA launched the National Food Strategy (NFS). The NFS is a long-term, overarching agri-food vision that will engage stakeholders across the food value chain, including producers, processors, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. Following up on an in-depth consultation process, the first NFS report will be released next year.