With NAFTA negotiations underway, talk of new tariffs, and the relationship between Canada and the U.S. at a critical juncture in its history, the U.S. capital was an appropriate setting for the Western Canadian Wheat Growers’ 48th annual convention this week.
The current trade and transportation issues, which are tied together in driving the export-based prairie economy, were the focus for much of discussion at the meeting.
“So many of the decisions that impact what we do in our farm businesses happen just a few miles from here,” notes Levi Wood, Wheat Growers president and farmer near Pense, Saskatchewan, speaking with us in a hotel conference room in downtown Washington, DC. (Listen to our conversation below.)
The Wheat Growers organization is different from most other Canadian commodity groups or commissions in that it is not funded through a government-mandated checkoff, but through voluntary membership. Rather than having to represent the views of all farmers, the group can focus on the priorities of its members, says Wood. That list includes pushing for open trade, improved transportation, and no carbon taxes.
While in Washington, the group also recognized its former executive director, former deputy minister to the premier of Saskatchewan and recent Sask Party leadership contender Alanna Koch with its 2018 “Shovel of Gratitude” award.
2018 recipient of The Wheat Growers Shovel of Gratitude is @alannakochsk. Her leadership in Canadian Agriculture is almost unrivalled. She’s been a big part of the WCWGA family. We could not be prouder then to present her with this little token of thanks #wheatgrowersconvention pic.twitter.com/GNqY8PqjDh
— WCWGA (@wheatgrowers) February 28, 2018
We discussed the Wheat Growers’ current policy priorities, recent changes in management for the organization, and how the group balances taking positions that attract new members (and funding) with the sometimes conflicting interest of taking positions that are also palatable to government and policy-makers — a conversation with Levi Wood: