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December: A time to reflect, then project

The arrival of December is supposed to bring happy tidings. Aside from the mild shock that comes with the end of another year, there is the approach of Christmas, along with well-wishes for continued health, happiness and prosperity.


February 24, 2010
By Ralph Pearce

The arrival of December is supposed to bring happy tidings. Aside from the mild shock that comes with the end of another year, there is the approach of Christmas, along with well-wishes for continued health, happiness and prosperity.

Yet as we move towards those festivities, some recent writings have me resolved to take a more positive approach to information in the New Year. The first is a letter by Bette Jean Crews, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (and I know I have my gall in mentioning Ontario in a publication geared to Western Canada, but bear with me). And the second is a feature entitled “What a waste,” from a recent edition of Maclean’s.

In the former, Crews rightly expresses her concern about the overwhelming apathy that consumers show towards food production and the complete lack of government policy geared to that same subject. Despite being a friend, I disagree with her assertion that the agricultural community, its organizations and its affiliated businesses must create a National Food Strategy in co-operation with provincial and federal governments. 

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Maybe now is the time for farm organizations and individuals to be the leaders and not the followers. Farm producers, university researchers, plant breeders, vanguards of the agri-business sector: there certainly seem to be the keenest of intellects out there. So what are we waiting for? Government ministries and bureaucrats have had their opportunity to help, and for the most part, they have done little.

My view is that we know what needs doing, whether it is better public relations, better accountability within the media or the development of a better communications vehicle.

Maybe it is all of the above.

In the Maclean’s feature, writer Nancy MacDonald does her best to grasp the complexities of the food industry, addressing the subject of food being tossed simply because it does not measure up to consumers’ standards. Unfortunately, she cites a few too many figures and observations from the UK and regions other than Canada. And she makes what I consider to be rather misleading comments about costs and profits in food production (“The agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices, creating an abundance of food, and profits.”).

Who is making the profits? Certainly not the farmers, and despite assertions that supermarkets are making money hand over fist, their profits are nowhere near those of, say, Canada’s chartered banks (George Weston/Loblaw’s percentage of profits to revenues is 1.6 percent; Royal Bank’s is 11.1 percent).

Still, I am making a New Year’s resolution (because that is what we do at this time of year) to do something positive in answer to these issues. Constructive criticism, with workable solutions, does far more to overcome challenges than simply whining about them.

The people, the intellect and the ideas are all there; we can be party to it or part from it.


Shifting gears

With the onset of winter, Top Crop Manager  provides a glimpse of warmer weather with its latest instalment of our Machinery Manager features, looking at high-clearance sprayers. Western field editor Bruce Barker has done his usual excellent job, collecting data tables and write-ups on nine manufacturers, with the full specs available on our website at www.topcropmanager.com .


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