"I thought that agriculture needed a big voice and louder voice in this province"

After 6 years as president of APAS, Todd Lewis reflects on years served as he passes on the torch



Facts about Todd Lewis

- Has a twin brother named Rod, who he farms alongside - Signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp in the spring of 1983 - Volunteer firefighter for Riceton and area - Spends time at Round Lake in his free time - Enjoys travelling to southern destinations and Europe - Studied agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan

On a sunny September day outside Gray Saskatchewan, combines will be spotted throughout the landscape as it will be a perfect day for the Lewis’ to harvest their crops. The Lewis family farm has been here outside the hamlet of Gray for more than 100 years. And just like the size of the family, the farm has also grown in the last century. “We're a fifth-generation grain farm,” Todd Lewis said. “My grandfather and my great grandfather originally came to Gray in the early 1900s and took over a homestead here. Over time, we've expanded the farm, and my father farmed with my grandfather and his father. When my grandfather passed away, it (the farm) was passed to my father and then to my brother and myself.” Lewis continues to farm the land with his brother and nephew. It’s the love of the farming life that has always been in Lewis’ life and blood. “I started farming at about 20-years-old,” Lewis said. “I'd gone away to university in Saskatoon… but then an opportunity to rent some land came up with the retirement of one of my great uncles, so that's when I got started in my career. I've never really looked back from there, and I’ve been heavily involved with the farm and its expansion. In partnership with my brother, father, grandfather, and now my nephew, it's been a great career and great lifestyle.” Lewis got involved in APAS when his rural municipality, RM of Lajord #128, became a participating RM of APAS in 2006. Lewis was already councillor for the RM and decided to put his hand up for the APAS representative position. In 2009, Lewis was elected to an APAS Board of Directors, and in 2016, became the president of the farm advocacy and policy organization. “The reason I got involved with APAS is, I thought that agriculture needed a big voice and louder voice in this province, and I think we've accomplished a lot of that over the last number of years,” Lewis said.

“It's been a great career and great lifestyle.”

Since Lewis was elected as APAS President in 2016, he’s been essential in pushing agricultural issues to the national and federal levels across the country. Some of the major issues APAS advocated for in the last 6 years has been challenging the federal government in court over the carbon tax, engaging with governments on Business Risk Management, the Rural Connectivity Task Force, seed royalties and most recently, pushing for more support for struggling farmers and ranchers who experienced a destructive drought in 2020-2021. “When we have a crisis like the drought, that's where groups like APAS have to step forward and do our best work,” Lewis said. “Throughout the drought, we've offered solutions, we pushed hard on Business Risk Management files, continue to push for improvements to AgriStability, and how the Next Agricultural Policy Framework is going to look. I’m disappointed there's a drought, but that's the time where we need to roll up your sleeves and work even harder for producers.” Among these projects, Lewis is also proud to have raised the profile of APAS across the province and country. He is proud to have more RMs participating in APAS, more people stepping up to be APAS Representatives, and more diversity on the Board of Directors. Lewis would have liked to see more positive movement in the carbon tax and rail transportation files but said APAS still made progress on those issues. “Grain transportation was always an issue,” Lewis said. “The province of Saskatchewan is so far from tidewater, and export is such a big part of our business that railroads and transportation are always going to be important,” Lewis said. “On the transportation file, we know a lot more about how the ground transportation system works and have much greater influence in it than we did a dozen years ago. Overall, no regrets as far as policy. We’ve tried our best. It’s not always about winning and losing at the end of the day. It's always important to raise agriculture’s profile so we can have the administration, bureaucrats, and politicians realize how important agriculture is to both to Saskatchewan and the Canadian economy.”

“I’m disappointed there's a drought, but that's the time where we need to roll up your sleeves and work even harder for producers.”

Lewis has worked to build relationships with industry leaders, governments, and political parties to have a solid foundation when he is pushing certain APAS objectives. He said it’s important to approach specific topics and issues in a certain way to be more successful in getting his point across and hopefully have an outcome he is satisfied with. Lewis has also needed to educate certain people about his role as President of APAS and the weight his actions carry for Saskatchewan producers. “It's always hard for a lot of producers to understand the concept of being bipartisan or nonpartisan,” Lewis said. “We (APAS) don’t make people the premier or the prime minister. They’ve been put in place by the electorate to run the province and run the country and it's our job to deal with those people. If you're having a meeting with an agriculture minister or a premier or prime minister, it doesn't mean that you support them politically. It means you're there on behalf of Saskatchewan producers.” Lewis acknowledged his busy schedule and said he wouldn’t have taken on so much if it wasn’t for his supportive family. He said the support of his wife Terry, daughter Kim, and farm partners have allowed him to commit to APAS and have the time to dedicate himself to advocating for farm policies for Saskatchewan farmers. APAS will hold a vote at its Annual General Meeting in November to vote for APAS’s next president. Lewis said whoever is voted in will be well qualified, and he has confidence in the current Board of Directors for the future of APAS. Lewis plans to stay on as a Board of Directors with APAS to help the new president if they need advice and to keep advocating for Saskatchewan producers. He said it’s important for organizations to have fresh perspectives and ideas and welcomes others to come forward to run for APAS Representatives and Board of Directors. “You don't necessarily have to be on the Board Directors to have a big influence on policy,” Lewis said. “If you want to get involved in some of the committees that we have, and everything to do with APAS, you get just as much out of it as the time you put into it. If you do choose put time into it, you'll get rewarded.” Lewis will also stay as a director and second Vice-President with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to continue fighting for better policies for all producers in Canada.

"Todd's approach to leadership shows true leadership. Everyone can have their say, and then he brings everything together and lays it out in a way, so everyone's points are acknowledged. His ability to listen to an issue and then come up with a solution is what agriculture needs in this country and this province. Watching Todd at the national level and how he interacts with different industry leaders and leadership and brings forward issues has been a great thing for me to witness and learn from. - Ian Boxall, APAS Vice-President

But Lewis said his time as APAS President has been an honour, a privilege, and he is thankful for being able to represent Saskatchewan producers provincially, nationally and internationally. “At different times you kind of wonder, how did you ever get into this room when in a Cabinet Minister’s office, or the Speaker's Chambers in Ottawa or you have the Prime Minister come visit your farm, or you’re going to see the Chinese ambassador in Ottawa. I always remember back in my football days, one coach’s advice was, ‘always act like you've been there before.’ It's always important to remember that these people are interested in agriculture. As producers, we're doing something that 99% of the world doesn’t do and a high percentage of people are very interested in where their food comes from. We really are fortunate to live the life we do, and people are interested in how we do it and want to ensure that we can do a good job of it. As president, it's always important to remember that Saskatchewan is an important part of agriculture in this country and, we really are number one in the country for agriculture. As members of APAS, when we go down to Ottawa or speak to people in Regina, it's important to realize you’re talking about some of the best agricultural producers in the world and to do your best represented them.” “It's important to realize you’re talking about some of the best agricultural producers in the world and to do your best to represent them.”

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