Ontario Agriculture

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AALP Class 13 North American Study Tour Day 4

July 8, 2010 - As the class travelled from the state of Ohio and into Pennsylvania, we enjoyed the rolling hills and deep wooded valleys on our way to State College PA, home of Penn State University. It was here that we would meet a number of cutting edge leaders from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth.

Upon our arrival in State College, we were fortunate to have Mr. Russell Redding, the Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Pennsylvania (Department of Agriculture) as our key speaker of the day. The Secretary spoke of how leadership is not a popularity contest where decisions are made by public opinion. Rather, leadership can be a lonely occupation as sometimes we have to "lead by making a decision that is not easy or attractive."
Bruce VanderWees, Thunder Bay, ON commented, "This reaffirms my journey with AALP, as I continue to learn about being a leader through making decisions that are in the best interest of community and industry rather than my personal opinion or thoughts of my peers."

Redding was an engaging speaker who was well received and was found to be quite intriguing in the manner in which he addressed the group. A man who comes across as being humble, while being divinely interested in agriculture is sometimes a rarity in this industry. What surprised us the most perhaps, was how this man could have a different impact on each individual in the room. Mr. Redding expressed that in a state which is so proud of its agriculture industry which shows increasing numbers of farms and farmers (as opposed to decreasing which is more common throughout the rest of North America) that one of their biggest challenges continues to be one that we also face in Ontario. Mr. Redding talked about the need for one voice which is a phenomenon we also share in Ontario. "So many interest groups, with so many different voices," said Redding. “It is interesting to see that where agriculture is booming or challenged, at home and afar, the same problems are faced by regions thousands of miles apart,” shared Clinton Buttar, Guelph, ON.

Brian Detwiler, VP MidAtlantic Farm Credit provided a presentation on 'A National Perspective on Ag Credit'. During the seminar break he expressed a strong desire to learn the details of the Canadian dairy supply management system, and asked Bonnie den Haan, Loretto, ON some pointed questions about the quota exchange and over quota controls. Secretary Redding also spoke of the desperate state of the American dairy industry and suggested change must take place in the next couple of years - the Canadian model has been discussed in farm and government circles. We look forward to further discussion on this topic with guest speaker and dairy farmer, Erick Coolidge, at tomorrow’s session.

It was definitely a thought provoking afternoon with many takeaways for all. The day provided a group of interesting and dynamic speakers to say the least, challenging our perceptions on leadership, agriculture, and community.

In the evening we enjoyed a reception at the Happy Valley Villa with our counter parts from RULE, the rural leadership program in Pennsylvania.

Clinton Buttar, Bonnie den Haan, Bruce VanderWees – AALP Class 13

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