As we work towards our climate and production goals, the importance of agricultural policy can’t be overstated. And, if it isn’t done right, the consequences could be disastrous to Canadian farmers. I can deal with a bad year, a bad crop, and even Mother Nature, but I can’t insure against bad policy.
Our global reputation
As an industry, we need help telling Canada’s agriculture story to an international audience. We should be telling the world what Canada’s producers are doing right while, at the same time, holding the rest of the world accountable as well. If countries, like China and Russia, refuse to hit climate targets, it won’t matter what we do in Canada.
When consumers, the media and even some politicians characterize us as environmental pirates, rather than the environmental stewards that we are, it can be disheartening.
I’m extending an open invitation to politicians, policymakers and others to visit our farm and see first-hand all of the best management and 4R practices we put in place every day. The view on the farm looks different from the view from a government office building.
Room for improvement
I’ve talked about this before, but the need for better soil testing in Canada is critical. I find it frustrating that some farms put in the extra effort and expense to soil test, allowing for more accurate nutrient prescriptions. This is clearly an area where agriculture policy could really help further decrease fertilizer emissions and increase our organic soil carbon. A 2019 Fertilizer Canada survey found only one-third of Canadian farmers soil test regularly – we need to do better!
There’s an incredible amount of work that’s being done in precision ag, no-till farming and fertilizer alternatives. It’s important people realize that we don’t over-fertilize because a) it’s expensive and b) it’s not good for the soil or the crops. I often compare fertilizer for crops to calories for humans. They are essential.
Carbon as a crop
If we do this right, Canada can be a global superpower in agriculture. We can export carbon as we do any other commodity. It’s an opportunity to create and lead prosperity in the world and attract international investment in Canada. It shouldn’t be a policy that over-regulates, slows down and costs our industry. There is an abundance of capital being allocated to global ESG strategies, let’s make sure we tell our success story in Canada to attract this kind of capital.
We need to work on infrastructure – namely rail and ports – so we can ship our exports to international markets. It is one thing to tell the world we can supply them with nutritious food, but we must have consistent trustworthy supply chains. And, we should be looking at additional ways to grow the value-add industry here at home, rather than shipping it overseas to be processed.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the buzzword of sustainability, that what doesn’t get talked about enough is the sustainability of our rural communities. We need to take care of the farms, families, workers and businesses who are the lifeblood of Canada’s agriculture industry.
As we centralize services such as health, education, finance and even some amateur sports in our cities, we are gradually drawing people away from our rural communities.
All of the environmental policies in the world won’t help us if we don’t have people to run and work on farms. Through the Community Builders Alliance and Hebert Group’s Deep Roots Foundation, we’re trying to invest back into our community of Moosomin and the surrounding trade area. But, we need this kind of investment on a larger scale and it’s not just up to the government – private industry should also be looking to rural communities as both a place to invest and give back.
While farming is different from province to province and from east to west, we all have one thing in common – we want Canada’s agriculture sector to thrive. I think with more collaboration, communication and consultation, we will be well on our way. We must all keep in mind that global theories can be implemented with regionally tailored strategies to meet our superpower potential.