In November 2016, the National Sheep Network (NSN) was formed. Currently comprised of three provincial sheep organizations, the Alberta Lamb Producers (ALP), the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency (OSMA) and Les Eleveurs d’ovins du Quebec (LEOQ), the NSN has been designed to be a resource-effective way to advocate for the Canadian sheep industry.
Coming together to address issues of common interest, the chairs and vice chairs of these three organizations meet monthly via teleconference. The current membership is based on provinces that have expressed interest and who are committed to actively participating on national issues.
With no formalized budget, the NSN allows the member organizations to pay for the advocacy work they can afford and provide whatever support staff resources they can. This allows the members to better prioritize their spending, with budget decisions being made on an as needed basis.
While admittingly this is an unconventional approach to a national voice, for a small industry like the sheep industry, funding a formalized national organization is challenging. However, over the past ten months that the NSN has been active, it has proven that a virtual national organization can be successful.
Some of its key achievements include:
- Being an active member of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
- Being the only livestock member of the AgGrowth Coalition, which has successfully lobbied for a comprehensive review of business risk management programs for Canadian farmers to better support the risks and opportunities of 21st century agriculture. The focus now is on ensuring that the industry is a trusted, authoritative partner in the review process.
- Active international engagement, including building relationships with the American Sheep Industry.
- Engaged in discussions on income tax reform, front of label packaging, and proposed changes to Canada’s food guide.
- The provincial organizations continue to work on issues related to traceability and are actively participating in the development of the Canadian Verified Sheep Program.
- Some producers have expressed concern that they are not aware of the work that the NSN has been focused on. Given that the provincial organizations are members of the NSN, the communication of the work that the NSN is engaged in is done through the provincial organizations. To keep up-to-date, you are encouraged to make sure that you are receiving your provincial magazines and e-newsletters as well as following them on social media.
Your provincial directors continue to be your main communication vehicle. Like with other issues, your director can bring your NSN questions and concerns to your provincial board for discussion, which will then be brought forward to the NSN.