Top Crop Manager

Features Business & Policy Consumer Issues
Introduction: TCMW October 2010

 If no one has ever explained this before, let me offer some insight: being an editor means doing a lot of reading!

September 17, 2010  By Ralph Pearce

 If no one has ever explained this before, let me offer some insight: being an editor means doing a lot of reading!

Depending on the day, I can spend much of my time combing through a mix of newspaper stories, website text, ministry newsletters or university press releases. In doing so, I have come to understand that agriculture in Canada is moving towards a dramatically significant crossroads (and I use that term knowing full well its clichéd past). But reading through the wonderful line of stories that Western field editor Bruce Barker and writers Donna Fleury, Carolyn King, Shirley Byers and John Dietz have amassed for this issue, I see signs that farming in Canada is set to move in a vastly different direction.

To the average urbanite, farming still amounts to little more than growing tomatoes or raising chickens. To many non-farmers, the concern about agriculture is whether farmers can replace canola and soybeans with organic lettuce … year round, no less.


The good news, though, is that farmers are starting to find new uses for the same crops they have been growing as commodities. As you will read in this issue, researchers have advanced their work through genomics, there may be a new biopesticide to fight Fusarium plus new uses for triticale are emerging.

All of this is leading to this crossroads, where Canadian consumers will face an eventual choice, which may not be only theirs to make.

For now, we hear that Canadians place a premium on food safety and security. Supposedly, it is important to them that food be “grown closer to home,” as is the tag line on the newest commercials from Loblaw’s. Of equal importance, of course, is that food prices continue to be low, with high quality, abundant supply, and “guaranteed” safety above fair returns to the producer.

Time to get informed
Yet, if the stories we are offering are even a modest reflection of the changes coming, the perception that farming relates only to feeding people is about to be shown as just that: a perception, a piece of fiction in need of correction.

Years ago, Kevin Stewart, host of the television program AgVision talked about the day when farmers will not just feed cities; they will feed manufacturing, health care, the energy sector, the pharmaceutical industry, and so many other markets and opportunities. We are seeing signs that those days are here, with more innovations and uses to come.

Granted, not all growers will opt out of commodity farming. After all, it is only a matter of time before they are able to exact a fairer price for canola and flax with specific-use traits and higher value properties. To expect them to continue farming with more regulations and higher costs, but lower returns, is as selfish as it is ridiculous.

But will consumers, who are already blissfully ignorant of what modern farming really entails, be ready or willing to have prices and uses dictated to them?

Probably not.

Yet, the notion that people can take our Canadian farmers, with their long-standing record of safety, quality, consistency and trustworthiness, for granted, is just as preposterous.

There is no place for that line of thinking: not today, and certainly not with the kinds of opportunities that are coming for our farmers.

You are the reason why we’re here, doing what we do.

Ralph Pearce
Editor, Top Crop Manager


Stories continue below