Farm leaders meet in Winnipeg
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(WINNIPEG) – Farm leaders representing major commodity sectors and every province across Canada met this week in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the semi-annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) – Canada’s largest national farm organization.
Among the topics discussed in meetings were government farm support programs, food safety initiatives, progress on creating a sector council to address human resource issue in agriculture, animal care initiatives, and international trade. Representatives from the Canadian Sheep Federation and the Canadian National Goat Federation offered a perspective on the impact of the BSE crisis on other ruminant sectors. Via conference call delegates were given an update from the Canadian negotiating team on WTO talks also taking place this week in Geneva.
On Friday delegates had an opportunity to discuss the progress of the Agriculture Policy Framework (APF) review with APF Review Committee Chair Edward Tyrchniewicz. Andrew Raphael of Meyers-Norris-Penny gave a very interesting presentation on the positioning of farmers in the marketplace. His recommendations echoed the need for an initiative like the Green Leaf project currently being proposed by the CFA – a consumer-oriented initiative to promote Canadian-produced goods and fair return to farmers. In a session Friday afternoon delegates discussed an innovative new approach to agriculture policy: the creation of a uniquely Canadian ‘farm bill.’
“It has been a very productive week,” said Bob Friesen, CFA President. “This is the first major farm leaders’ meeting to occur in Canada following the reopening of the border and I think that has made for a more optimistic and positive tone in our discussions.”
This week the CFA was also pleased to receive two new applications for Associate Membership from the Canadian Wheat Board and Quality Assured Seed, a Saskatchewan-based farmers’ cooperative. “These will be two valuable new voices at the CFA table, increasing the scope and strength of our farmer representation,” said Friesen.
However, developments at this week’s meeting have led CFA delegates to express some concern about the direction of industry-government partnership on agriculture. For the first time in years no representative of the federal government appeared to address a CFA meeting. CFA members were pleased to have an address from Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk. However, they were alarmed to hear the Minister suggest that a 0.45 per cent of reference margin fee for participation in the Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization (CAIS) Program is a done deal, even though the official communiqué following the recent federal-provincial ministers’ meeting had indicated no decision had yet been made.
“The possibility a decision has already been made on a CAIS participation fee, without farmers in the room and despite farmer concern, hints at a return to the bad old days of agriculture policy development when governments handed down policy to farmers without input or consultation,” said Laurent Pellerin, CFA First Vice President. “Before becoming Prime Minister Paul Martin told CFA members that agriculture policy had to be done with farmers, not to them. We’re unfortunately starting to see less ‘with’ and more ‘to’.”
Founded in 1935 to provide Canada's farmers with a single voice in Ottawa, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is the country's largest farmers' organization. Its members include provincial general farm organizations as well as national and inter-provincial commodity organizations from every province. Through its members, CFA represents over 200,000 Canadian farmers and farm families.