Candidate senses some complacency while on the campaign trail
INKERMAN — Jackie Kelly-Pemberton’s 13-year stint as Dundas Federation of Agriculture ended last winter. And as summer nears its conclusion, she hopes to have a new title: newly elected Zone 11 director for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Three weeks of voting by local member farmers in the Dundas, Frontenac, Grenville and Leeds zone concludes this evening, Sept. 8.
Kelly-Pemberton is taking on incumbent director Eleanor Renaud of Leeds County for the upcoming three-year term as one of 18 OFA board members.
“I have had a great reception from my own county and the other farmers I’ve met,” she says of her campaign this summer.
However, Kelly-Pemberton expresses some concern at the apparent voter apathy, considering the serious issues at hand, observing that four all-candidate meetings were “not as well attended as I’d like to see.”
The first meeting in Chesterville drew only executive members of the Dundas Federation of Agriculture, she points out, while a Grenville session drew only five people. She adds that she has fielded a few calls from OFA members about her stance on the issues.
“I do feel there is some sense of complacency. Some farmers are not engaged,” the candidate says, adding she tells prospective voters that “your county matters at OFA. I’ve been asking members to be engaged” in the process.
There’s much for farmers and the OFA to be concerned about, she says, from the recently started NAFTA renegotiations to a newly announced federal tax grab on mom-and-pop corporations.
On that last Trudeau government policy, the implications for small businesses and farms are expected to be serious and expensive. She note that, ironically, the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has just spent the last 20 years encouraging farm families to incorporate their businesses.
She says the OFA must continue to push governments for exemptions on carbon taxes and other carbon-trading fees that increase the price of fuels used in the production of food.
On another environmental matter, she says the OFA must influence the conversation on potential new provincial phosphorus regulations targeting farmers — even when the South Nation watershed already employs a non-point source strategy to mitigate the issue locally.
To top it off, farmers have faced the pressures and stress of an extremely wet summer. “You’re looking at your crops that you can’t take off.” On her own family farm, the summer’s first cut of hay was mowed in September.
A trained vet technician who has earned a common-sense reputation on environmental matters — after years as Parmalat Winchester’s environmental manager, consulting on biosolids for the City of Ottawa, and serving as agricultural liason to the Raisin-South Nation Source Water Protection Committee — Kelly-Pemberton and husband Steve crop 200 acres of IP soybeans, corn and hay near Inkerman. They milked cows for 18 years.
Although referring to herself as “retired,” the candidate is eager to carry on her “passion” of standing up for the farming community. “I’m not ready just to do nothing,” she says.
Results of the vote are expected next week.