CFA continues to be important organization

And you think annual general meetings are boring.


At the Canadian Federation of Agriculture meeting in Ottawa last week, there were several big name speakers and interesting visitors. Even the resolution votes generated plenty of interest. 


For example, resolution 29 dealt with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. There was a good debate with farmers clearly divided along supply management and non-SM lines.


Essentially, the resolution put forth that the CFA should lobby the government for several supports for Canada’s dairy producers. Among them was a request that the transition period for providing access to Canada’s market should be no less than 10 years. 


That brought a reaction from the non-SM side. For instance, one pork producer pointed out that CETA would be excellent for him, offering new markets to his struggling sector. He noted that this sort of issue was why the Canadian Pork Council pulled out of the CFA a year ago.


The resolution’s language was altered to state the transition period should be lengthy only if other commodities were not negatively affected.


That change did not carry the day. The resolution remained intact and passed by a narrow margin.


Divisions within the CFA are long-standing and to jaded observers, perhaps not fascinating. But this is a useful organization, with strong farm group members. Its frailties should be faced, and if possible, mended. Much is riding on it. Allow me to illustrate with another resolution.


It suggested that the CFA should lobby government to hold consultations with farm and commodity groups before any government agricultural programs are terminated or altered.


Good idea, although one speaker expressed concern that this resolution would give the government licence to talk to whomever it wants, and thereby divide the farm lobby.


Another speaker noted that the government should take direction from elected leaders of general farm organizations. While coming from different angles, the viewpoints were basically the same: get government to consult widely. The resolution carried with 85 percent in favour. 


Farmers need a strong collective voice to engage governments and other industry players, particularly when hell is breaking loose — like it is today over grain transportation. The CFA, with its national base, offers such a voice when it finds agreement.


AGMs? In this case, not boring at all.