By John Clement
March 25, 2011
At a recent provincial meeting of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, a guest speaker challenged our members to keep in mind that all public policies are aimed at particular goals and outcomes, based on an understanding of what we value in life. I think it’s an important piece of advice and one that needs to be kept front and centre when we create and debate new laws and regulations for farming.
In my experience, most farmers see the world as a place for hard work, personal initiative and responsibility, plus working cooperatively with others when you can. They want to be rewarded for their contributions, to see their tax dollars promote family enterprise and values and to see their lives unencumbered by rules and regulations that discourage initiative.
All that being said, farmers sometimes feel like the world doesn’t take their values into account. In fact, it seems like society keeps asking for more and more, with little concern for the impacts it has on farm businesses. Farmers are called upon to continually adapt their businesses to reflect society’s concerns about water quality, endangered species, climate change and a host of other issues. Farmers often believe that the balancing point between societal concerns and their own needs has swung too far towards the former. The CFFO has heard that opinion expressed several times throughout the last decade, particularly in our recent seminar series on regulations.
Given the increasing demands of society, and how they eventually play out in legislation and regulations, perhaps a quote from author C.S. Lewis needs to be kept in mind. He said several decades ago:
It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects -- military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden -- that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.
It’s important to remember that many of our public policies are aimed at those precise goals. But in the complex, multi-layered world of legislation and regulations, it’s often hard to see the forest for the trees. And sometimes the trees need a good pruning so that the forest flourishes. Accordingly farmers need to remain vigilant to ensure that their voice is heard in the ongoing discussion about societal values and how they are expressed in rules and regulations.
John Clement is the General Manager 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, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.