How do we send a unified voice to Ottawa?

Love them or hate them, grower groups exist in Canada to represent all kinds of primary producers. In fact, there are so many of them, I lose track – from provincial groups and national groups to sector and crop-specific groups.

At HGV, we pay significant amounts in check-off dollars to many of these organizations.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe there is value in some of these groups. But, I know I’m not the only one to question the impact of these dues we pay. 

Some of these groups need new blood, but there seems to be a reluctance by many young growers to step forward and seek leadership roles. I think they’re frustrated.


Let’s tell Ottawa one story when it comes to agriculture

As an industry, our voice becomes so fractured by the time it gets to Ottawa that it’s no wonder we can’t get our points across. How do we get as much lobby power as other big industries like the railways, chemical companies and airlines? Ag, as an industry, is inherently cracked at the foundation.

Rural Canada has a relatively small number of votes come election time. Western Canada’s farmers don’t get near the amount of attention as some other industries, and I think, in part, it’s our own fault.

The more progressive farms are seeing this and pulling their dollars from grower groups as they see the opportunity to spend the money to better their own operations. They feel the groups are not pushing the industry forward and standing still is going backward in an inflationary time.

I think it’s important to think beyond the financial statements and yearly check-off dollars and, instead, consider what a true change in the industry could do for profitability.

Is it time for a Canadian Minister of Food?

In my opinion, we need one strong voice to represent us. Now, here come my wild and crazy ideas for anyone who wants to listen.

I’d like to see a Minister of Food elected in Canada – someone that Canadians would listen to and care about. To be brutally honest, I don’t think the average person pays any attention at all to our Minister of Agriculture. They tune out and feel they are so removed from farmers and the industry. But, they do care about their food – the health, safety, price and how it’s grown.

My other idea is that we have an appointed Ambassador of Agriculture – this person would consult with all of the different grower groups and distill the message into a few points rather than a laundry list of different asks from different groups, that we never seem to get any resolution on. Perhaps this Ambassador could also represent Canadian ag internationally at events like COP and the WTO.

Now, I know some of you may think I’m coming down too harshly on our current lobby and grower groups, but I think we can all agree that Ottawa is not hearing our message.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

As the government continues efforts to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from fertilizer use, it’s important that we are united when we voice our concerns to federal politicians and bureaucrats. We need to be thinking strategically about the big picture of our whole industry and not just protecting one area of agriculture – whether that be beef, dairy, eggs or canola.

We don’t need to look out for ourselves, we need to look out for one another. If we don’t, Canadian agriculture will suffer. I don’t know about you, but that will negatively impact my livelihood and my kids’ futures. 

We can do better.