New organization seeks louder voice for farmers

Annual meeting in January | Motion passes to consider replacing new commission with all-crop commission

Just as the newly formed Alberta Wheat Commission is electing directors and establishing its plans, one of its members has proposed it be replaced by an all-crop commission.

Lethbridge area farmer Alex Russell made the motion Nov. 21 at the first Region 1 meeting of the Alberta Wheat Commission. His motion was passed and will be considered at the commission’s annual meeting scheduled Jan. 28 in Edmonton.

Russell is a past chair of the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission, which became part of the newly formed entity that represents growers of all types of wheat in Alberta.

He said he worked toward formation of the wheat commission but at the time also saw merit in a larger provincial group that would have a bigger budget and mandate to represent growers of all annual crops.

He also said a prairie-wide commission for annual crops would be even better.

“It just doesn’t make sense to be segregated,” he said in an interview after the vote.

“We have more interprovincial trade barriers than we do international trade barriers and it makes no sense. Our farm probably has more in common with southern Saskatchewan farms than we do with a farm around Edmonton.”

Russell pointed out the U.S.-based National Association of Wheat Growers as an example of a powerful group that represents the interests of farmers.

He said most farmers grow more than one crop, and an all-crops commission could reflect their varying needs while saving money through sharing one building and administrative staff.

“It’s just the logistical and fiscal cost savings, and then having the political clout of having them all under one umbrella group when you deal with Alberta and when you deal with Canada,” Russell said.

“It is tough to get farmers organized like that, but it makes sense just on the fiscal and the physical constraints of buildings and things like that.”

In his report to the meeting, given before Russell’s motion, zone director Lynn Jacobson of Enchant, Alta., said the new wheat commission erased divisions that sometimes plagued producers.

“A divided agriculture industry is not good for any of us anymore. We need to start talking together. We need to start working together.”

He pointed to the success of Quebec’s general farm group, Union des Producteurs Agricoles, as an example of a powerful farm group that has influence with government.

“While we don’t maybe want their style … the principle is very good for our organization,” Jacobson said.

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