By Tim Kalinowski
As the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) heads into another election season this fall, Todd Lewis, president of APAS, says his members and directors can look back on the past few years with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“A general farm policy organization is important,” says Lewis, “and I think you only have to look at the number of issues we have had this year— from grain transportation to tax reforms and even the deferred grain ticket situation. We did lots of work and were successful. The carbon tax is another issue — there is no end of different policy issues in agriculture and it is important to have a general farm policy organization like ours where all we do is policy. And we are kept very busy doing it.”
Lewis says elections do not stop the work of APAS, and he is excited by all the new nominees choosing to throw their hats in the ring this year. Lewis says APAS always welcomes those who want roll up their sleeves and work together for farmers.
“I think the voice of agriculture is important,” states Lewis, “and people are willing to listen; so we try to put our best foot forward as much as we can. We are being heard, and we have had pretty good success.”
Lewis predicts grain transportation will continue to be a major focus of his organization’s policy efforts in the next few years, and that emerging issues like neonicotinoids will become the next flashpoint between farm groups and government bureaucrats.
On the transportation issue, Lewis says the failure of the entire rail system these past few months highlights the need for further regulation at the federal government level.
“It was even more frustrating this time around,” says Lewis comparing the disastrous 2017 to the previous grain transport crisis of 2013/2014, “because of the failure of the entire system. Potash and other commodities also had a difficult time moving as well.
“I guess misery loves company, and grain shipping had the same problems as the rest of the country as well. All we can do is keep plugging away at it, and hope we get some improvement … And I think we are moving the needle a bit, certainly for the bureaucrats with the Canadian Transportation Agency.”
On neonicotinoids, Lewis says APAS has one message for Ottawa— hands off.
“We have to get some pretty focused agenda and messaging on that,” states Lewis. “Neonics are extremely effective, especially in western Canada, and I think we need to have another look at that so we don’t lose that control of flea beetles, especially in our canola crops.”
Lewis confirms he is running to be president of APAS again during this October’s director elections, and he hopes others will consider running as well to ensure a constant percolation of new ideas and new energy to help APAS prepare for the vital farm advocacy needed in the year ahead.
“I think if the right message is put forward in the right way, with a united voice, we can continue to be very effective,” he says.