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Supply management pioneer Ellard Powers, 75

Ottawa Valley dairyman Ellard Powers, credited with spearheading the development of Canada’s supply management system for dairy, poultry and eggs, has died.

Memorial services were held March 4 for Powers in Beachburg, Ont., to be followed by interment there later this spring. Powers died in hospital Feb. 28 at nearby Pembroke.

“When dairy farmers were suffering financial hardships, he helped create supply management which brought economic stability to the industry,” P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter said in tribute Wednesday in the House of Commons.

According to Easter, Powers and his wife Gladys began farming near Beachburg, about 125 km northwest of Ottawa, while he was still in his teens.

Powers’ involvement in farm policy led him to sit on boards and executives of groups and agencies including the National Farmers Union (NFU), Ontario Farmers Union, Ontario Milk Marketing Board and the Ontario farm funding agency Agricorp.

Powers’ work on supply management in the 1960s sits among other efforts to improve farm incomes, such as a 1967 demonstration he co-chaired that brought 25,000 farmers and supporters to Parliament Hill.

Powers went on to serve as chairman and CEO of the Canadian Dairy Commission from 1973 to 1976.

“Of all the institutions that farmers have tried using to solve the perennial problem of market power — collective bargaining, co-operatives, ‘new age co-ops,’ single-desk selling and supply management — none of the others have come anywhere near the effectiveness of supply management in improving farm incomes,” Powers told an NFU meeting in Regina in 2001. “This is the key lesson our history teaches us.

“History gives us a task: to defend and preserve our supply management systems against the forces that would undermine and destroy them,” he said. “That way we can go on creating ways to strengthen farmer power in the marketplace.”

Easter, the Liberals’ agriculture critic and a former NFU president before moving to federal politics in 1993, described Powers in the Commons as “a friend and mentor to me personally and to many with whom his life touched.”

Powers’ contribution to Canada “constitutes a national legacy,” Easter said.

Powers’ family said donations in his memory to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario or to the St. Andrews United Church Memorial Fund at Beachburg would be appreciated.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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