By Lorne Small
December 16, 2011
Canada is one of the few countries that is a net exporter of food. We have more arable land per capita than any other country except Australia and Kazakhstan. Canada is also blessed with fertile soils, dependable rainfall, accommodating climate, world class infrastructure, and farmers that know how to produce. In the years ahead, Canada will have a moral responsibility to use all of these resources to feed a growing world population.
According to the United Nations, world’s population recently passed the seven billion mark. But more important is the rapidly improving incomes in the developing world. Many more citizens of the world can now afford a good diet. They are demanding more protein, especially protein from meats. These world trends place Canada and Canadian farmers in an enviable position. Canada can be a world class leader in food production. Perhaps it is time that all Canadians looked at agriculture as one of the great industries in our country.
Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin recently reminded the CFFO Convention that the agriculture and food sector is the largest industry in Ontario. It is larger than the auto industry and the forestry industry. It is a major creator of jobs and prosperity in Ontario. It is time we asked our government leadership to recognize agriculture as a growth industry and nurture it accordingly.
During the past decade there have been a number of new or changed regulations that have impacted Ontario agriculture. I expect that all have very good social value to the general population. But many Ontario citizens do not realize the impact these socially desirable initiatives have had on farmers and food production.
The Nutrient Management Act and Source Water Protection came about as a result of the tragedy in Walkerton. Minimum wage laws targeted at the fast food and hospitality industry have damaged our fruit and vegetable industry by making them less competitive with imports from countries with much less regard for their workers. Species at Risk and Animal Protection legislation appears to be socially progressive but has made many livestock producers reconsider producing livestock. Unfortunately, farmers bear the major burden of these social initiatives while their urban cousins bear no burden at all.
As farmers we are asking all citizens and their elected government to respect your rural cousins - your food producers. Give us the flexibility to do what we do best – innovate, expand and compete on the world stage. If we all work together we can all prosper.
Lorne Small is the President of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.