FarmLink in the Field: Critical mass helps.

Posted on June 2, 2020

One voice preferred.

Dan Hawkins, grain marketing advisor from Swift Current, weighs in on the critical mass and advocacy problem.

This week the Liberal Government announced $252 million for the agriculture and agri-processing sector. The Liberal government’s response highlights a much deeper that is critical for the long-term strength of the industry. Western Canadian farmers are a fractured group and if they remain fractured, they will have no market power.

Every exporting nation typically has a set of trade rules that governs both the buyer and the seller. For some reason, in Western Canada, there are no such rules. Whatever rules are written in the company’s contract are the trade rules that govern that transaction.

A colleague of mine is from the UK and told me there were similar issues there a few decades ago. Then the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) stepped in and negotiated a set of standard trade practices that bound buyer and seller. Why the TFA you ask? Quite simply, 71% of UK farmers were members and so it had a clear mandate. The last I heard, the strongest farm organization in Canada had 21% membership.

The various Manitoba farm organizations have made steps to consolidate, and that is the right thing to do. Past FarmLink members have tried to make steps towards standard contracting through the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSCA) but met fierce opposition from the other board members that were employed by line companies. If the Crop Production Show features everything from the Canary Seed Development Commission to the Canadian Canola Growers, Western Canada will not see a standard set of trade rules.

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