The Woolwich Observer

Efforts underway to help farmers grow and raise more food

- OWEN ROBERTS

Abig question about the global food supply that hasn’t really been answered is where all the grain is supposed to come from that was formerly planted, harvested and exported by Ukraine and to an extent, Russia.

We know Ukraine is a huge supplier of the world’s grains and oilseeds, especially wheat and sunflowers. And depending on the source, markets expect 20-30 per cent less production from Ukraine.

Other countries are expected to fill the gap. Because when you think about it, where else will it come from? World stocks hold some grain reserves, but they’ll be under pressure for some years to come without creative solutions from farmers everywhere.

The challenge is to keep sustainabi­lity in mind. Feeding crops more and more fertilizer, or achieving additional acreage by planting in areas that are environmen­tally sensitive, is not a long-term approach. Farmers don’t want to jeopardize their land, and society wants a higher standard.

Productivi­ty for modern technologi­cally sound farms includes affordable high-speed internet. While farms are home for families, they’re also businesses. Imagine running a competitiv­e business with either staggering internet costs or poor internet service.

Maybe you already do. On both sides of the border, government­s have been pouring big money into better internet access, particular­ly in Ontario.

But despite repeated calls to the Canadian government for mercy, there’s been little in the way of relief from ridiculous and globally embarrassi­ng high internet costs. The narrow telecommun­ications ownership base has a strangleho­ld on Canadians that federal politician­s are either unable or unwilling to break.

It’s different in the US. There, the Biden administra­tion announced earlier this week the Affordable Connectivi­ty Program, designed to lower highspeed internet costs for 40 per cent the country. That equates to a savings of $30-$75 per month, and could affect half the country’s rural residents and 20 internet providers there.

The US is also trying some new and different creative measures to increase crop production. Earlier efforts to take more land out of a successful federally sponsored conservati­on program failed to gain wide support, although the uptake of the program by farmers is significan­tly lower than in past years.

Now, the department of agricultur­e says it will offer to insure some farmers who can produce two crops (called double cropping) on the same land in the same year…or in some cases, on land that is now in the conservati­on reserve program.

This isn’t expected to make a huge change, but agricultur­e secretary says it will get lawmakers thinking outside of the box.

For example, I suspect some of them knew little about internet access for rural America before the affordabil­ity proposal came up for approval.

The lesson they’re getting in the complexiti­es of food production might open their minds to other creative approaches they hadn’t considered, because so few legislator­s understand agricultur­e.

Could you benefit from a 30-75 per cent reduction in your internet fees? Or from real competitio­n between five times more internet providers than you have now?

Why does Ottawa keep dragging its feet? You don’t need to know much about agricultur­e to know internet affordabil­ity here is a joke.

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