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More support needed for ag federation

Posted on December 4, 2013 by Taber Times

Does this province need an all-encompassing general farm organization?

Last week, this region’s board of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture gathered in Taber, in part to lay out a strategy whereby the organization could experience growth.

Formerly called the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, the newly-named federation seeks to bring all commodity groups under one organization, and include producers, non-profit organizations and even the occasional city slicker.

It is a worthwhile goal, and one which would, at least on the surface, give Alberta an opportunity to maximize this province’s clout when lobbying the federal government.

Alberta, as it stands today, features numerous commodity-group associations, which all have separate agendas and separate points of view. It is getting those points of view at one table which has proven difficult.

No doubt, Alberta has a wide range of interests when it comes to agriculture. Here in southern Alberta alone, a staggering array of agricultural industries are featured. We are well known across the country as a hub of irrigation, which brings with it the ability to produce crops as varied and diverse as sugar beets and corn, to potatoes and onions.

Southern Alberta is also home to large feedlots, pork operations and traditional family farms, and is representative of a provincial agricultural industry which represents too many interests to list all at once. And so, while a few other provinces do have general farm organizations which wield a significant amount of influence in Ottawa, the Alberta Federation of Agriculture is still attempting to create that type of dynamic here.

It has been a tall order thus far but in the grand scheme of things, certainly seems like a venture worth exploring further, particularly due to the nature of federal politics and its relationship with Alberta. Here in this province the old saying goes, ‘You could paint a fencepost blue and it would get elected.’ The Conservatives sweep to massive majorities every election in Alberta, as provincial voters time and time again give their stamp of approval to Stephen Harper and his slate of candidates in this province.

In other provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, where votes for the Conservatives are a little harder to come by, general farm organizations can exert pressure on the government, and advance agendas critical to the development of the agricultural industries in those provinces.

The situation is a little different in Alberta, where the federal government has a long history of sweeping electoral districts with relative ease.

With that in mind, a segmented industry in this province might not be the best way to go to help advance the demands of our agricultural sector. But opportunities have been presented in the past for these groups to co-operate within the context of a general farm organization, and up to this point, efforts have come up short.

With the Alberta Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting coming up next January in Banff, the clock is ticking. A new name and a new vision will only go so far. Support from those in the industry who have a large stake in the process need to become one board in order for the organization to survive.

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