Importance of Sharing Farmer Perspectives in Ottawa (PCN Summer 2016) JUN 24 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) members had the opportunity in March and again in April to travel to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to bring forward farmer viewpoints on many key topics.
The March trip focused upon Pulse Canada’s coordinated effort to deliver the message about Food System Transformation to meet societal needs to Canada’s government representatives and key public service members in Ottawa. This concept was developed to bring together a policy that integrates the health of the environment, the health of the economy and the health of Canadians. Pulse Canada members, including those from APG, used pulses as the example to bring messages about how sustainability, excellent health attributes and pulses can enhance the economy.
A second, but crucial, key message from the Pulse Canada visit was the request to renew the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act which expires on August 1, 2016. The pulse and special crops sector was impacted, like many other grains sectors in 2013-14, when rail transportation was so poor. This legislation allowed the opportunity for the industry to move product and keep markets open. It is still critical legislation to have in place in the event that transportation issues constrict movement.
APG was represented on this trip by Pulse Canada directors from APG including Ryan Kubinec (Zone 3), Robert Weisgerber (Zone 1), James Jackson (Zone 3), and Caroline Sekulic (Zone 4), along with APG board members Allison Ammeter (Zone 2), John Kowalchuk (Director at Large, Non-Bean), and Rodney Volk (Zone 1), as well as Executive Director Leanne Fischbuch.
The second trip to Ottawa partnered APG with the Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley Commission, Alberta Canola Producers Commission and Grain Growers of Canada Alberta representatives. APG Zone 4 Director Fraser Robertson and Executive Director Leanne Fischbuch experienced four days of meetings on Parliament Hill with other Alberta Team members. These meetings had farmers and staff members connect with Members of Parliament from all parties to share information on four key areas: market access, transportation, research and sustainability.
There were also opportunities to bring the grower perspective on these topics to key members of the public service. All MPs were pleased to have farmers share their experiences on the key issues within each of those areas.
For many of the meetings the message continued for renewal of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act. Farmers reiterated that extended interswitching that was provided in the legislation was beneficial and without good transportation options there would be challenges with market access. Ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was another hot topic with all growers supporting and encouraging ratification of the agreement.
Other topics of discussion included the need for continued and stable research funding and capacity, as well as the need to consider the significant innovations and leadership role farmers have taken in protecting the environment and sequestering soil carbon when it comes to climate change leadership.
“Farmers work toward sustainability to not only help us save money, but also to save carbon and better the environment in the long term,” Robertson said. “A lot of people don’t realize what is happening on the farm, so it is good for us to have the opportunity to share our message with the government representatives.”
The opportunity for producers to share their views in Ottawa is very important. When farmers speak to Members of Parliament, they are able to share exactly how rules, regulations or issues impact them firsthand. This is important information to bring forward and MPs listen to this personal testimony.
Through Pulse Canada, pulse growers have excellent opportunities to have a regular presence in Ottawa with a Pulse Canada staff member located on the Hill and representatives of Pulse Canada travel when they are required to participate in meetings in Ottawa. Other times, grain farmers rely upon groups such as Grain Growers of Canada to have their Ottawa staff be their voice.
The Team Alberta Outreach effort, in its second year, provides APG with another chance to bring concerns from Alberta pulse producers to the Canadian decision makers.