KAP elects new president
Portage la Prairie-area farmer says tenure as vice-president helped prepare her for new position
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Jill Verwey, who farms near Portage la Prairie, was elected as the new president of Keystone Agricultural Producers at its annual meeting on Tuesday.
Verwey, who was acclaimed as vice-president of the province’s largest farmer advocacy group five years ago, won over Jake Ayre in the first actual competitive election of a KAP president in 30 years. Ayre was also a vice-president of KAP.
“Growing up on a farm north of Neepawa instilled core values in me of family community and agriculture,” said Verwey.
She said her tenure as vice-president under Bill Campbell for the past five years gave her experience engaging with KAP’s partners — in addition to 4,000 farmer-members there are also 20 commodity group members — and prepared her to take on the responsibilities of president of the organization.
She said the board and staff at KAP are excited about 2023 when it is scheduled to develop a new strategic plan for the next five years.
“KAP’s vision is for a sustainable and profitable future for all Manitoba producers,” she said. “That will be starting point of the strategic plan we will be working on.”
KAP prides itself on the grassroots dynamic of its policy advocacy. Verwey said “Leading and building consensus with a diverse organization that represents all producers and having that collaboration of all the ag sector and stakeholders is essential to continue to elevate the importance and role of agriculture in Manitoba.”
She echoed the message about the importance of the stewardship of the land and its sustainability to ensure there is the opportunity for future generation to continue to farm the land.
“In order for this to be a success we need strong leaders and organizations like KAP at the table where these policies and regulations are created and developed,” she said.
This was KAP’s first live annual meeting in three years and it was preceded by a well-attended Ag Days in Brandon last week.
“Agriculture has faced many challenges over the years and in the future those challenge will be there and there will be new challenges,” she said. “But we are excited that those challenges are also opportunities as evidenced by the success of Ag Days where we all stood shoulder to shoulder looking at the new innovations we can bring to the farm.”
While the sector has faced the realities of extreme weather events over the past couple of years, out-going president, Bill Campbell said after a drought 2022 was a year with sometimes excessive moisture, extreme heat and strong winds during seeding.
“The weather led to delays in seeding this past year that left hundreds of thousands of acres unseeded,” he said. “While harvest was later than normal – what we heard is that most producers were pleased with the quality and yields they were able to get of their fields and into the bins.”
In a sometimes emotional address, Campbell made it clear that handling climate change and environmental sustainability and the policies around that will be the big issues in the future.
“What we do matters,” he said. “The burning issues are around sustainability and environmental stewardship and how policy is being set by government, the public discourse we hear in society and how all this affects public trust in our sector.”
Campbell itemized some of the things the organization played a role in achieving over the past few years including its role in the development of Canada’s Sustainable Agriculture Strategy, the expansion of subsidized seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the the University of Saskatchewan from 15 to 20 seats and temporary rent reduction for agricultural Crown lands in Manitoba.
He said after working alongside national partners there is confidence about the passage of a bill in Ottawa that will exempt farm fuels for grain drying and heating and cooling barns from the carbon tax .
He said those environmental sustainability issues are already of top concern.
“Are we ready as an industry to take on these challenges?,” he asked. “While these issues do exist and are our focus we must ensure the economic viability of production while striving toward food security commitments in Canada and around the globe. This is why what we do matters.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.