The Canadian Federation of Agriculture launched its 75th anniversary on several fronts in mid October with a spiffy gala, an appearance before the Commons finance committee and a news conference where its leaders spelled out the key issues facing farmers.
“Farmers saw a need back in 1935 for a national voice to develop agriculture policies that had broad support,” says CFA president Ron Bonnett. “If CFA didn’t exist today, we would have to invent it.”
Many of the issues that concerned farmers in 1935 – commodity prices, input costs and research – remain key topics today, he added at the news conference. CFA has changed its structure over the years to benefit from new communications technologies and widespread air travel to enable farmers to deliver their message directly to the politicians and bureaucrats.
“Together with farm organizations from coast to coast we are bringing to Ottawa the message that farm organizations are here to help build a vibrant agriculture industry for all Canadians,” he said. “We hope to encourage increased collaboration between governments and farm groups, for today and for the future.”
Ian Wishart, representing Manitoba’s Keystone Agriculture Producers, said the soggy summer across Western Canada “has made us all acutely aware of the problems in the existing safety net programs. We need to fix them and also give farmers a choice between the kind of coverage they get. We also need a short-term financial fix to get our farms back to profitability.”
There is also a need for some recognition of the costs being imposed on farmers by government environment programs, said Humphrey Banack, president of Wild Rose Agriculture Producers. CFA’s message to the finance committee’s pre-budget consultations was that farmers are still waiting for the promised cut in the excise tax they pay on diesel fuel.
There also needs to be a concerted effort to improve publicly funded agriculture research, he said.
“We’ve been working on this issue since 1994 when the first government cuts were implemented,” Banack said. “We keep bringing it up. Private research has done amazing things for agriculture but we still need public research. We will keep pushing this as much as we can.”
Farmers would like to become involved in food value chain projects but are hampered by current federal tax restraints on investing in off farm businesses, he said.
Fred Marshall, president of the Agriculture Producers of Saskatchewan, repeated CFA’s demand for a railway costing review. He said farmers are paying $4 to $8 too much for the rail movement of their grain. “We shouldn’t be paying excessive revenue to highly profitable companies.”
The recently released report of the Rail Service Review Panel reinforces the contention of farm groups that the railways get away with poor service and high rates because of a lack of competition, he added.
More than 250 people packed a ballroom at the Chateau Laurier near Parliament Hill Oct. 20 for CFA’s Harvest Celebration Banquet. It featured guest speaker Senator Mike Duffy and addresses from past CFA leaders including Bob Friesen and Jack Wilkinson.
“IfCFAdidn’texist today,wewouldhaveto inventit.”