Saskatchewan agriculture lobby reaches out to Ottawa

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis led a delegation to Ottawa on October 23-25 where they had an opportunity to lobby legislators, senators, Cabinet members and government agency officials on the most pressing issues in agriculture today. According to Lewis, the delegation was attending a board meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. At the same time, the delegation members organized a lobby day for MPs and senators on October 24. The team split into groups and held 42 different meetings.
“It was a successful time,” said Lewis. “We had lots of face time.” The APAS president characterized the lobbying effort as fruitful. The team had an opportunity to speak to Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, the Finance Ministry, and Agriculture Canada, and they put forth a lot of policies and brought to light key issues in the agriculture sector.
Lewis noted that there is “a lot of interest in agriculture in Ottawa.” The various power centres in Ottawa realize that agriculture is a big driver in the Canadian economy right now. At the same time, Lewis credits the effective lobbying efforts of Saskatchewan agriculture which he sees as greatly improving in recent years. “Farmers are effective when we work as a group,” he noted. The farmers’ message is getting across to the legislators and policy makers.
But it was not all smooth sailing. There are still sticking points over the government’s proposed changes to corporate taxation, and the APAS delegation was intensely lobbying the agricultural position. All of the political leanings in Ottawa recognized the importance of agriculture for Canada in terms the agri-food industry and trade. Lewis said that the APAS delegation stressed the importance of the concept of the family farm during the discussion of tax changes.
Lewis said that APAS will continue to press Ottawa on the tax issue and speak up about topics like income sprinkling and the cash deferral issue.
He also noted that it was important that the delegation team met all political sides. “We’re just there to speak about the farmer’s view to all parties and all committees,” he said. “If you don’t talk to all the people, you won’t be part of those conversations.”
The NAFTA negotiations and the impact of changes on the agriculture sector were another key topic of discussion. Lewis pointed out that agriculture is very integrated between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. He provided the example that the trade with the state of Ohio in the hog industry and pork products tallies about $100 million alone and provides tens of thousands of jobs in both countries as hogs and finished pork moves back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border for finishing. Closing the border would be devastating to this single trade industry alone. He said that the APAS is lobbying the government to take the position of “do no harm”.

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