Canada is a vast nation and as such has a great diversity geographically, climatically, and ethnically – all of which have an impact on how agriculture is practised across the country and presents different challenges in the various regions. Farm organizations have a long history in Canada as being the credible voice of Canadian farmers. Organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) provide a single and unified voice for “grassroots” farmers across this diverse landscape.
Canada is blessed with the ability to grow several hundred different commodities. Each commodity has its own unique production and marketing challenges. Commodity groups have realized that although each commodity had its own unique characteristics, some issues are common to all groups. These include: accessing transportation infrastructure, dealing with government bureaucracy, rural development issues, economic realities that come with climate and biological variability, an ever-decreasing rural population and declining political voice, international trade issues, and competing with other country’s agricultural policies. The issues today are complex and so the farm population look to elect individuals who have the time and interest to work on those files that best advance the sector. Umbrella farm organizations such as the CFA were established at both the Provincial and National levels to deal with these “pan-agri” issues and reduce duplication of effort.
The CFA is Canada’s largest national umbrella farm organization. Through its members, CFA has a wide and varied representation, with general farm organizations in each province as well as national commodity groups and co-operatives which represent every geographic region and every commodity. The CFA represents over 200,000 farm families when it speaks on issues. CFA’s leaders are elected farmers who are accountable back to their membership base, which ultimately goes back to the individual farmer. Issues are brought forward through the membership chain where they are discussed, debated and voted on in consultation with our membership.
Industry would like to work collaboratively with government to develop the very best policy for the sector which will contribute to Canada’s economic, social and environmental fabric. The mechanism for this collaboration is communication through consultation. Farmers expect consultation through their commodity organizations on what is being discussed at the provincial and national levels. It is critical that those contributing in such consultations be accountable back to other farmers for what is said. That accountability can only happen if the consultation is done through, or with the assistance of the farm organization structure.
CFA represents the unified voice of farmers. It is important for government to work with and listen to elected members of farm organizations – they are articulating the synthesis of a discussion which has its roots with the individual farmer.