Formerly the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, the general farm organization changed its name in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. The organization, incorporated in 1959, continues to seek ways to represent a wide range of on-the-farm interests.
“Our objective is to represent members, create co-operation and ensure areas of common interest are dealt with,” said the organization’s president, Lynn Jacobson, at the federation’s regional meeting late last month.
To boost its numbers, he added the federation is examining changing its membership classes to include producers, commodity groups, non-profits, associate members and patron members, who would be non-voting members which would be subject to a $20 membership fee.
Jacobson explained the producer fee would be $125 a year, while the commodity group and non-profit fees are proposed to be based on a sliding scale of the operating budgets for the organizations that wish to join. Associate members would pay a $1,000 yearly fee.
As the federations’ Jan. 20-22 annual general meeting next year in Banff approaches, members of the regional board added the time is now to attract new members to add more voices.
“Larger commodity groups allege they don’t need general farm organizations but they do,” said Gerald Third, who is also the executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, as he pointed to an example of when the sugar beet growers used contacts in the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to quickly set up meetings with high-level negotiators to discuss an issue important to them.
The president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture for this region, Merv Cradduck, said one key step needs to be taken to help bring more members into the fold.
“We need to focus on two or three core issues, like electricity rates and land rights, issues everyone has an interest in.”
Third added the time is now for producers and commodity groups in Alberta to come together, as he added provinces who feature mandatory membership for their general farm organizations hold too much power in Ottawa.
“All of the agricultural policy in Canada is driven out of Ontario and Quebec, and it’s driven out of there because they are organizations that can fund themselves, and we get the crumbs,” he said, as Alberta’s agricultural industry is too fragmented. “We all face the same things, yet we can’t get together to face the issues. We just can’t seem to get these big engines together.”
Jacobson touted the work the Alberta Federation of Agriculture has already done as proof of what could be done with even more resources.
“We were one of the organizations that got the temporary foreign worker program going. If it wasn’t for us, it wouldn’t have been there. We’ve sat around the table and done things for agriculture that commodity groups by themselves could not do.”