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Power of the pitchfork wielded by farm women too, says SWAN

SASKATOON – The square bale of hay skewered with two pitchforks sits prominently near the speaker’s podium in a downtown hotel room.

Decked with blue and pink ribbons, the pitchforks are an amusing yet sharp prod about the theme of this winter meeting of the Saskatchewan Women’s Agricultural Network – women as a visible part of the farm team.

A third of the nine resolutions passed at the opening session Sunday dealt with the validity of farm women’s work.

SWAN is asking the federal government to maintain money to fund projects for farm women. For the past five years most groups were able to get funding under the Farm Women’s Advancement Program. But it is to be phased out this year.

SWAN operates on an annual budget of $20,000 and director Calla Olson said, “we definitely depend on their support for a number of projects.”

SWAN also wants federal and provincial governments to change their criteria for subsidizing summer employment for students by making child care a recognized job. Several members noted that while students could be paid for field work, cooking and house cleaning, government does not allow child care on the farm to be a funded summer job.

The group also plans to ask the federal government to ensure that off-farm income is not included as part of statistical farm income.

SWAN director Elaine Kacsmar said Statistics Canada mixes a man’s on-farm income with a woman’s off-farm income.

“It looks good on paper but it’s not a true picture.”

In agricultural resolutions, SWAN wants federal agriculture minister Ralph Goodale to rethink the recommendation from the Senior Executive Officers Committee to sell rail cars to the railways. SWAN members say $100 million for the 13,000 cars is too cheap and farmers will end up paying for them through higher freight rates. SWAN also passed a motion expressing support for central desk selling and the Canadian Wheat Board.

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