28, 2004: There’s an election on. Here’s
what our candidates should know about Canadian agriculture.
On mad cow disease
Reject Paul Martin’s definition. In a recent interview
he called one sick cow an outbreak. More than a year after
the discovery of just one cow with BSE, our beef sector remains
in turmoil. There is an outbreak all right, but not of sickness
in the livestock sector. Ad hoc guidelines developed in response
to an epidemic in the United Kingdom more than a decade ago
have been implemented holus-bolus against Canadian beef in
international markets. The impact on Canadian agriculture,
not from the disease but from the guidelines, is an outbreak
of epidemic proportions -- an outbreak of protectionism in
the United States; an outbreak of decision-makers hiding behind
bureaucratic rule-making. Farm entrepreneurs know how to adjust
for and accommodate market risk, disease risk and weather
risk, but adjusting to process risk is impossible. Farmers
need your unequivocal encouragement to weather this period
that baffles definition.
On the Candia Agricultural Stabilization Program
It’s a good program, but historically untested when
it comes to delivering real support in hard times: few farmers
will extol its virtues. It is the best stabilization program
I’ve seen in my 30+ years of involvement in agriculture.
It is based on individual farm need, not provincial averages,
and it pays out just as soon as farm income dips below past
average production margins. Its strength is in taking out
the lows in farm income. However, this program has its warts:
it will benefit most those farms that have specialized in
just one commodity that experiences wide swings in market
prices. It offers meager support for commodities with steady
or slowly eroding prices. In almost every commodity there
have been long-term price declines. In fact, many farmers
will experience a decline in the value of their reference
On supply management
It is not good enough to say that you “support the
goals of supply management” -– the carefully chosen
words of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada.
Granting supply management powers to farmers is a far better
approach to supporting agriculture than holding out the promise
of subsidies as protection against conditions outside their
control. Supply management gives farmers market clout, a real
say in their destiny. “Farmers paid a fair share of
the consumer food dollar” has become a foundation of
the Christian Farmers Federation’s vision for agriculture.
It means enabling farmers themselves to negotiate a fair share
with the few large processors and retails that now dominate
our food chain. The notion of governments protecting farmers
against conditions outside their control is a relic of past
For more information about the National Farm Products Council
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