Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


An agrarian protest organization that enjoyed considerable popularity from the late 1920s to the 1940s, the United Farmers of Canada, Saskatchewan Section (UFCSS), was founded in 1926 as a result of a merger between the Farmers Union of Canada and the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association (SGGA). The two groups had formerly been rivals; in fact, the Farmers Union of Canada was established in response to what its members saw as a conservative SGGA leadership that was too closely tied to the provincial government and that had lost touch with rank and file farmers. The amalgamation was ratified at the UFCSS's inaugural meeting in 1927, and long-serving agrarian activist E. A. Partridge was chosen honorary president.

The UFCSS was part of a tradition of dissent on the Canadian Prairies that began to take root in the early 1900s and took shape during a period in which other agrarian organizations (such as the Progressive Party and United Farmers of Alberta) exerted considerable influence in federal and provincial politics. At the time of the UFCSS's establishment, the United Farm Women of Saskatchewan (UFWS) was also formed. The UFWS worked with the men on several initiatives and also independently on women's issues. Although it experienced problems common to women's organizations that work within male-dominated groups, ufws members enjoyed more influence than women in most other agrarian associations.

In 1928 the ufcss passed a resolution that called upon the government to compel all farmers to market their wheat through the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. To convince farmers of the benefits of the "100 percent pool" plan, American cooperator Aaron Sapiro was recruited to speak on the need for all farmers to participate in the venture. The issue split the ufcss and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, as the latter body maintained that compulsory legislation would destroy the movement. In addition to cooperative marketing, the ufcss steadfastly supported other forms of cooperation.

Initially, the ufcss opposed direct political action. Members disliked partisan politics and believed that contesting elections detracted farmers from more important goals, such as controlling the marketing of their produce. Thus, it chose instead to focus on lobbying and education. In the latter field, it embarked upon a program that occasionally competed with that of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

The onset of the Great Depression drove the ufcss toward direct political action, which it officially endorsed in 1931. Stressing "industrial action" (rather than concentrating on farm issues, as some organizations did), in 1932 the ufcss merged with the small but influential provincial Independent Labour Party and became known as the Saskatchewan Farmer-Labour Group. Soon after, this body became the Saskatchewan Section of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation.

In 1946 the UFCSS supported the Alberta Farmers Union's strike, which generated conflict within the movement and with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. In 1948 the UFCSS reorganized and was renamed the Saskatchewan Farmers Union. By 1954, it had more than 72,000 members. In the ensuing years, however, with a few exceptions, membership declined. In 1969 the Saskatchewan Farmers Union and other organizations merged to form the National Farmers Union.

See also AGRICULTURE: Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

Kerry Badgley National Archives of Canada

Fairbairn, Garry Lawrence. From Prairie Roots: The Remarkable Story of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1984.

McCrorie, James Napier. In Union Is Strength. Saskatoon: Centre for Community Studies, 1964.

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