The Woolwich Observer

Grain farmers give Ottawa a 25-year plan

- OWEN ROBERTS Food For Thought

Afive-year plan was once the norm in management. But even before the world started going haywire (i.e., pre-COVID), doubts were emerging in some circles about anyone’s ability to look that far down the road.

Enter the three-year plan. However, even that was a stretch. Society was changing so quickly that it was hard to imagine a crystal ball being accurate for much more than a year at a time.

Now, not all sectors can work that way. Agricultur­e, for example, needs long-term plans for research into the likes of new plant variety developmen­t and livestock improvemen­t.

This is especially true as we look to fewer farmers to feed the world, in the face of a shrinking farmland base, chronic labour shortages, global warming and rising costs for inputs such as seed and energy.

Shouldn’t a long-term plan be in place to figure out how to address these shortcomin­gs?

The Grain Growers of Canada thinks so. With a federal election on the horizon, this group, representi­ng more than 65,000 cereal, oilseed and pulse producers nationwide, gained the distinctio­n earlier this week of being among the first to the table with policy recommenda­tions for political parties and decision makers to study… and hopefully adopt.

They’re taking an exceptiona­lly long, bold view. They’re calling this new policy document Road to 2050, a “guide for federal government programmin­g.” Follow these suggestion­s,

Ottawa, and we’ll have a grain sector that can sustainabl­y intensify production while addressing climate change and ensuring the long-term economic prosperity of grain farm priorities.

Road to 2050 has three themes. First, it calls on politician­s to position Canada as a global leader in agricultur­e investment and innovation. That’s a research-heavy ask: it wants more money put toward plant breeding, machinery research, agronomic practices, cell networks and a supportive legislativ­e and regularity framework.

Next, it wants Ottawa to recognize, publicly support and reward grain farmers’ advances. The much-hated carbon tax in particular has generated a general malaise among farmers towards Ottawa that isn’t getting addressed. And as for recognitio­n, farmers have long thought that they are neither supported nor acknowledg­ed for sustainabi­lity measures they’ve had in place for decades.

Finally, the grain growers want a comprehens­ive approach to data and metrics developmen­t and use. They say Ottawa should work with prov

inces and the industry across the country to determine accurate and agreed-upon measures, baselines and reporting so that they can best leverage, improve and innovate on measuremen­t and data systems. This is especially relevant as more rural communitie­s get broadband and farmers have greater access to e-technology. But what will they do with all the data they’ll generate? It’s a problem for the future, but many tech-savvy farmers are already faced with it.

The growers say these policy recommenda­tions proceed from the core realities that Canadian grain farmers must be profitable to be sustainabl­e, and they must be globally competitiv­e to be profitable.

Can’t argue with that, Ottawa. Here’s the plan.

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