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Farmers urged to make sure decision-makers hear them

Farmers need the best lobbyists to get up close and personal with the politicians, regulators, officials, presidents, vice-presidents and regional managers who affect their lives.

The good thing is that they’re cheap.

As discussed in a story on page 15 in this week’s paper, the head of CropLife Canada says that farmers are the best representatives of their own interests, and their interests are best represented when they can talk face to face with decision-makers.

That sentiment was echoed by senator Rob Black, who champions agriculture in Parliament’s red chamber.

Farmers’ markets are governed by more rules and regulations than almost any other industry, so getting those R+Rs right is vital for farmers’ welfare.

You don’t need to fly to Ottawa to have a chinwag with a Very Important Person. Both Petelle and Black were speaking at Keystone Agricultural Producers’ annual convention in Winnipeg on Jan. 24. They were happy chatting with farmers at the coffee breaks and meals.

At one of the coffee breaks I ran into Conservative MP Dan Mazier, a former KAP president who represents an enormous rural riding in western Manitoba. I had a chat with Dan, as you could too if you showed up at meetings like this. I wanted to get his take on what’s going on in Ottawa, but you could have used that time to tell him about whatever situation on your farm concerns you most.

A few feet away Patty Rosher, assistant chief commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission, was talking with a few farmers. I saw her this past summer at Ag In Motion, where she again was chatting with farmers and hearing the concerns.

I ran into her colleague, chief commissioner Doug Chorney, at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon in mid-January. He too was walking around, talking with farmers, hearing about the real-world grain-grading situations farmers are grappling with.

You might think well-paid lobbyists are the most effective mouthpieces for farmers, but that’s not what the lobbyists told farmers at KAP. They want the real McCoys to help get their messages to the folks who make such important decisions but have little time and can be jaded about the polished professionals they so often deal with.

I was at a Canadian Foodgrains Bank announcement south of Winnipeg late last year. There was a chance to talk with MP Terry Duguid, who is influential in the government as one of the few Liberal MPs on the Prairies. He was instrumental in getting the new federal water agency established.

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