Political campaigners have an adage: public policy is set by those who show up. We are in the middle of a federal election and now is the best time for producers to influence policy.
Now is the time for you to actively participate in the political process and let your voice be heard, and to ask yourself “what message do I want my next member of Parliament to deliver to Ottawa?”
Canadians will elect 338 MPs on Sept. 20. Every one of these MPs will influence, for good or bad, what happens on your farm, the international markets that will be open to you, and the regulations you will face as you work to bring high-quality safe food to Canadian consumers and people around the world.
There are both urban and rural communities that are thriving because of the investments made by our industry. This is a story that producers need to tell directly. I am confident that when candidates and parties know and understand the value of agriculture, good public policy will follow.
What does “showing up” mean? Every constituency is likely going to have all-candidates meetings. Go to these sessions prepared to stand up for the potential of agriculture and the future of your farm. Instead of avoiding candidates when they come door-knocking, engage with them on agricultural issues. Don’t assume your candidates understand the importance of agriculture, even if you are in a rural riding.
What agricultural issues should you raise? Some cut across all sectors of agriculture. Access to international markets is one example. Most farmers depend upon international markets for their incomes.
Export dependent farmers need governments to pursue trade agreements, like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) or the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We also need governments to go beyond negotiating agreements. We need to see significant new resources dedicated to ensuring that trade agreements really do increase our access to new markets, and that the promise of free trade is not rendered void by protectionist non-tariff barriers.
Agriculture faces significant market volatility and production risk. These risks put the long-term financial sustainability of the industry in peril and limit opportunities for additional investments. Agriculture value chains need candidates to recognize the need to reform business risk management programs.
Foreign animal diseases like African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease would devastate livestock production if discovered here. Producers are working with governments, but more needs to be done to plan and prepare for foreign animal disease detection in Canada. We need candidates to commit to building partnerships with industry and ensuring that we have the resources, both fiscal and human, available to combat these threats.
These are samples of the policy areas important for the future of agriculture. The most important thing is to push candidates to support the industry and its people.
Now, during the election period, is the time to get involved. After all, if producers don’t speak for agriculture there will be others who will, and while they may not understand our industry, they will become the ones who influence those going to Ottawa.
Stay informed, get involved, and don’t forget to vote on Sept. 20.
Cam Dahl is general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council.