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Putting Farmers in Front of Policymakers

Erin Gowriluk, Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada – Spring (March) Pulse Beat 2020

We are well into the New Year and Grain Growers of Canada’s plan to “put more farmers in front of policymakers more often” is firmly in place.

It started with our third annual Grain Week February 18–20, 2020. That was our first outreach initiative since the 2019 federal election. We welcomed members from across the country to the nation’s capital to meet with parliamentarians from the four major political parties to discuss upcoming priorities for Canadian grain farmers.

What made this year’s Grain Week especially exciting, is that it was a celebration of GGC’s 20th anniversary and marked the first in a series of member-led outreach initiatives. While having an annual event like Grain Week gives everyone something to look forward to, we know that to be effective in Ottawa, you have to have a consistent presence. That is why the GGC team is so excited to welcome members from Manitoba and Saskatchewan back to the nation’s capital for meetings from March 23–26. In April, members from Alberta and B.C. will join us from the 20–23. These events are important to put a face to a name and ensure that farmers can interact directly with policymakers. This strategy is by far the most effective and compelling way to advance our sector’s priorities.

Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers have and will continue to be a key contributor to GGC’s national outreach efforts and 2020 will be no exception. Policymakers need to hear firsthand about the challenges that Manitoba farmers have faced with the 2019 harvest. They also need further insight as to how the carbon tax is punishing farmers who need to dry their grain after a particularly wet harvest season. This is in addition to the government’s failure to make meaningful changes to business risk management programs. These decisions have left farmers in every province of this country feeling as if they have nowhere to turn for support at a time when they most need it.

On the value creation front, GGC will be leading the national conversation in 2020 to ensure the producer’s perspective is front and centre. We will also work with the national value-chain associations to encourage the government to address the increasing number of market access restrictions facing many Canadian commodities.

Advancing the grain sector’s priorities under a minority government requires a focus on issue-specific campaigns that will inspire support from agriculture champions across the political spectrum. Collaboration is the key to obtaining policy wins in a minority government and we have a plan to achieve just that.

To advance this work, GGC has developed an advocacy strategy which aims to:

  1. Raise the profile of GGC and its key issues.
  2. Raise the profile of GGC Board members and farmers and build relationships with newly elected and re-elected members of Parliament.
  3. Establish GGC as a “trusted voice” and “trusted advisor” to government.
  4. Optimize the 20th Anniversary of GGC in 2020 to connect the organizations and its story to decision-makers.

By creating meaningful opportunities for direct engagement between farmers and policymakers, GGC can present a united and informed grower voice ­— one of five “value propositions,” which our team is committed to delivering to members. The other four are:

  1. Providing members with real-time intelligence accompanied by critical analysis. Active and ongoing reconnaissance in the nation’s capital coupled with critical analysis ensures GGC members have what they need to develop informed policy positions.
  2. Being proactive and nimble. GGC must retain the ability to respond quickly and decisively to issues as they arise.
  3. Building trust and community amongst members.
  4. Fostering a culture of service for our member “customers.”

The challenges facing grain farmers in Manitoba and right across the country are numerous and often beyond farmers’ control. This year, GGC will be focused on ensuring that government understands those challenges and what they can do to minimize the impact on Canadian farmers.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. I look forward to what we can accomplish together.