The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan can look back with pride on a year of achievement in 2017, and forward to a year of new challenges ahead, says president Todd Lewis. He points to the massive lobbying effort farm organizations like APAS put on the federal government last year to get them to back down on proposed changes to income tax laws which would have hit generational, family farms hard had they been implemented.
“We did a great lobbying effort down in Ottawa through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other groups,” states Lewis. “It was a really common message: Farmers weren’t happy, and ranchers and farmers in general saw these proposals as very detrimental to our futures. Overall, we are fairly satisfied the federal government pulled back from what it was going to do. We are certainly monitoring what’s coming next. We won’t be surprised again.”
APAS also successfully got its message across on carbon taxes at both the provincial and federal levels, says Lewis.
“I think one of the big concerns for us last year would have been carbon pricing,” he confirms. “It’s certainly something which is ongoing, and we spent lots of time last year talking about carbon, and how agriculture’s footprint is improving all the time.
“In Saskatchewan, we are pretty happy with the position the province has taken, but of course we have to await the result of negotiations between the province and the federal government. We’ll see where that takes us.”
Lewis says producers have continued to stress the negative consequences to their businesses from an ever-escalating carbon tax, and the need to put in agricultural exemptions for any proposed carbon-pricing scheme which may emerge in the future.
“We are at a spot where we are trying to show the value agriculture does have in the carbon equation, and I think we have a good story to tell that way,” he states. “There is a part of agriculture that is seen as part of a solution, and not a problem, when it comes to carbon. We have done a tremendous job in lowering our carbon emissions without a carbon tax. I think carbon tax or not, we will still make improvements.”
Transportation is another issue near and dear to APAS members hearts, says Lewis. And with Canada on the cusp of adopting Bill C-49, which will bring a new balance in the relationship between the agriculture industry and the railway duopoly of CP and CN Rail, things are certainly looking up.
“Transportation is a big part of ag.,” he says. “And we were happy to see this bill go though Parliament, but unfortunately it is stuck in the Senate. We are hoping to get it passed and enacted.
“We have not been getting good railway transportation in a lot of western Canada this year. We need to get these new regulations in place so we can start holding railroads to task on poor service. It’s important to get this done because we are going to lose another shipping season here pretty quickly.”
Lewis says it is about time railways are held accountable to their customers in this way.
“I think the reciprocal penalties between shippers and railroads is an important piece of that legislation,” he states. “Farmers have said for a long time it’s one-sided. At the end of the day, bad shipping always comes to the farm gate. If a ship’s waiting in the harbour in Vancouver, and there is lost time in the elevator system or own truckers are sitting in line for no reason except the bad service from railroads— it all stops at the farmers’ pocketbooks.”