Saskatchewan Grain Grower's Association (SGGA)

Grain growers' associations were formed on the Canadian prairies in the early 1900s in an attempt to reform the grain-marketing system so that it better served the needs and interests of farmers. Throughout the late 1800s, farmers were becoming increasingly agitated over the collusive and unfair trade practices of the railways and elevator agents. In particular, farmers were upset over the railways' refusal to allow farmers to load their grain directly onto railcars, which forced the farmer to sell his grain to the elevator operator at prices often determined by the operator. Concerned about the rise in social unrest, a Royal Commission was appointed on October 7, 1899. The Commission consisted of three Manitoba farmers and issued its report in March 1900, recommending amongst other things that railways be compelled to furnish farmers with cars for shipping their own grain, and that flat warehouses be provided to allow farmers to accumulate their grain for later shipment. The Manitoba Grain Act was subsequently enacted in July 1900 to regulate the grain trade, and farmers viewed its passing as a major victory. Yet the following year, the railways ignored farmers' requests for cars, prompting a group of farmers to gather in Indian Head on December 18, 1901, the outcome of which was the founding of the Territorial Grain Growers' Association. With William Motherwell as the Association's first president, the Association soon pushed for an amendment to the Manitoba Act which would allow farmers to bypass the local elevator and in effect reserve a railway car - taking precedence over later orders by local operators - provided that the farmer had enough grain to fill a rail car. Yet despite enactment of this amendment, the railways again failed to provide farmers with rail cars for direct loading. In response, the Grain Growers sued the Canadian Pacific Railway's station agent at Sintaluta for ignoring farmers' orders for rail cars. The Association won the case, in the process energizing the agrarian movement and establishing itself as an important and influential farmers' organization. Over the years, the Territorial Grain Growers' Association underwent a series of transformations: in 1905 it was renamed the Saskatchewan Grain Growers' Association; in 1927 the SGGA joined the Farmer's Union of Canada to form the United Farmers of Canada-Saskatchewan Section; in 1949 the UFC-SS was restructured and renamed the Saskatchewan Farmers Union; in 1969 the Saskatchewan Farmers Union, Manitoba Farmers Union, Ontario Farmers Union, and British Columbia Farmers Union amalgamated to form the National Farmers Union, which received its charter from Parliament in 1970. The NFU's mandate is several-fold, and includes efforts to promote economic and social justice for farmers, to ensure that the family farm is the primary mode of food production in Canada, and to employ sustainable agricultural practices that protect the environment.

Damian Coneghan