At its annual meeting Sept. 22, the Grain Farmers of Ontario tabled a resolution to withdraw its membership in Ontario’s largest farm lobby group, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).
The grain farmers are frustrated that the OFA isn’t representing their views and creates a fragmented farm voice, GFO chairman Mark Brock said.
The OFA has become the kicking post for many grassroots farmers for another reason. For years the provincial organization and its national counterpart, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, have been handicapped by an image that it is a training ground for future Liberal Party candidates and members. Former Canadian Federation of Agriculture Rob Friesen ran for the federal Liberal Party, lost, and went back to being president of the CFA. Former OFA president Ron Bonnett is now the president of the CFA.
Both former OFA presidents Geri Kamenz and Bette-Jean Crews were appointed by the provincial Liberals to well-paid government positions. Kamenz, who once hosted Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien at his farm, now heads the Farm Products Marketing Commission, earning more than $100,000 per year for the part-time job.
With an appearance of favouring the Liberal Party, the OFA appears to many grain farmers as incapable of standing up to the Ontario Liberal government after it decided to effectively ban neonicotinoid corn and soybean seeds.
One grain farmer, who has followed this issue closely but agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said that for some farmers their issue with the OFA is not partisan politics but simply that the OFA has become “wishy-washy” and won’t stand up to the province. Having GFO and OFA now fighting each other will only make the province happy, the farmer said.
The GFO will discuss at its next meeting in March, 2016, whether or not to actually vote on the resolution, which could see a serious philosophical split in farm country.