Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NFU and the Family Farm

Yesterday, we Blogged about NFU and Supply Management using the National Farmers Union ("NFU") Statement of Purpose as a guide to where NFU stood on these important issues.

Today, we look at NFU's position on the family farm.

I recently received from a friend a copy of an NFU membership recruitment brochure that NFU sent out in January 2008.  In that brochure, NFU states:
The NFU is committed to:
  • preserving the family farm* as the cornerstone of the food system.
Then down below, the brochure clarifies "family farm":
* A family farm is an operation that produces food or other agricultural products and where the vast majority of labour, capital, and management are provided by family members.
(NFU National Convention, November, 2000)
OK, so far.  It would seem that the vast majority of Small Flockers would fit into the NFU definition.  That may be why the NFU lobbied for and supported the 2,000 bird Supply Management chicken quota exemption for Small Flockers.

It is interesting that the family farm is just the "cornerstone".  A cornerstone is the first stone laid when building a building, but it isn't the only stone.  There is only one cornerstone in a building, surrounded by thousands of other stones.  On a percentage basis, the cornerstone is merely ceremonial, like putting Granny at the head of the table every year for Christmas dinner.

Does this mean that NFU prefers to have the majority of food produced by local family farms, but until we achieve this goal, we may have to backfill the farm and food system with factory farms and corporate run mega-farms?

What exactly does NFU mean by this?

In the clarification statement from the Nov. 2000 convention, we get some additional info on the mindset of NFU.  What prompted the convention to address this clarification/  Were NFU staff and policies drift off what the members felt was the true meaning, and NFU members had to right the ship back on course?

I'd be interested in receiving comments and feedback from NFU members who were at the Nov. 2000 convention, or know the back story on this clarification.

The clarification says "vast majority".  Obviously, a majority is anything more than 50%, but what is a "vast majority"?  Is a "vast majority" 66%, 75%, 80%, or 90%, 95%, or 99%, or perhaps like Ivory Soap, they meant 99  44/100% (99.44%).  Again, what does NFU mean?

Is a serf placed on a farm by the great
and powerful Lord of the Manor (ie. a
multi-national agri-corp) meet NFU's
definition for a "Family Farm"
When they say capital, a farm that re-invests its profits back into the farm would obviously meet the criteria.  If the family mortgages themselves up to the hilt with bank or Farm Credit Canada loans or lines of credit, the family is owner in title only.  All those loans have hypothecation clauses, power of sale, foreclosure, demand notes, and similar fancy financialization clauses that would cause a migraine headache for Scrooge.  Miss one payment, and all may be lost.

Does that situation meet NFU's definition?

In some cases, the farmer is a mere caretaker or contractor, placed on the land by the mighty Lord of the Manor (ie. a multi-national agri-corp), just like a serf during the Middle Ages.  Does that meet NFU's definition? 

Is that what NFU meant then, and still means?

Perhaps we can get some clarifications from the next convention of the NFU.

It is one thing to wax poetically about farming pastoral lands like long ago, but exactly how do we make all this work?

How do we get a level playing field for all players?

The small family farms likely can't do it all, but they can play a significant role.  If that is true, how do we make room for them in today's agricultural landscape of national and international corporations who want to capture maximum market share and profits, and aren't squeamish about how many family farms get squished in the process.

If we are ever going to get government to understand and change course before it is too late, we need a comprehensive, feasible plan to which we can get buy-in from all stakeholders.

Does NFU have that plan?  If not, are they willing to help generate it?

Small Flockers are willing to help.  Is NFU a willing partner?

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