Turnout was surprisingly good for many of the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s annual district meetings last month. But the mood was muted, with meetings held over Zoom.
District 6 (Haldimand, Brant, Hamilton and Niagara) director Jeff Barlow said his meeting, the inaugural one of the season, went quite well, with better-than-expected turnout and few technical issues. About 50 people tuned in, counting some GFO staff and himself. “ I was quite surprised, (but) really happy that a bunch of people made the effort.” The meeting was “short and sweet,” he said, with no resolutions. That’s not unusual, but the meeting went mostly one way, since Zoom doesn’t facilitate the usual unpredictable back-and-forth that fills up most meetings.
And the social aspect was definitely missed, he said. Attendance was down 25-30 per cent and he figured they were likely missing the people who came to socialize. For many farmers the chance to have coffee or lunch with a friend you don’t see often is the main reason to attend.
Like most meetings across the province, the Clean Fuel Standard and the federal carbon tax were two of the top topics, even if producers couldn’t discuss them face-to-face.
District 8 (Huron) director Keith Black said that among his 38 farmer-attendees, grain prices and farm support (or lack thereof) were hot topics as well. His district passed a resolution asking the GFO to track and contrast U.S. farm support with Canadian farm support for farm aid programs.
District 2 (Kent) director Mark Huston said his 50 members were mostly focused on BRM programs, particularly AgriStability. Members were hopeful that the province would keep gunning for a better deal than the one on the table. “We understand it might be the best we can get, but it won’t help anyone in our industry.”
Turnout across the province was a bit patchy, with producers dropping in and out, said GFO communications manager Victoria Berry. But around 30-50 people were at each annual meeting, she said. That would put overall attendance among the 15 districts at between 450 and 750 people. That’s below the roughly 800 to 900 that have attended annually in recent years.