An Agricultural Policy Fantasyland Where Nothing Works But It Doesn’t Matter

     Planting time is getting very close for me.  I’ve spent the last few days actually putting down fertilizer for soybeans and wheat this fall.  Usually, I do that after I have my corn planted but this early spring has given me opportunities that I never thought possible.  A year ago I was one of the 1st people to work the land near Dresden in southwestern Ontario but this year I actually worked over 80 acres about 3 weeks ago.  If we get a good drink of water this weekend, planters will roll next week.

I have often said we work so hard to get ready to plant and when we actually start planting, things slow down.  In other words, when you are sitting in a tractor planting seeds instead of preparing to do it, it seems much easier.  Just remember when you are out in the fields planting corn and soybeans the spring, work safe.  There is nothing so important that we need to take chances.  Get your work done but do it in a safe manner.

I had an interesting week.  I actually heard from two of my editors.  You might think this is normal but it actually rarely happens.  One of my editors informed me that I would no longer be writing Machinery Guide for Country Guide magazine.  That stung a bit as I always put a lot into that part of my career and not being able to continue was disappointing.  On the same day I heard from another one of my editors who wanted me to vent a little bit more about issues of the day and bit less commentary on our grain markets.  It made me think that I needed a snowstorm to go take a walk in.

It got me thinking about venting for the sake of venting. If you are a farmer you will know the proverbial story about the cost of the ketchup versus the cost of the bottle which its put in.  Or the other story is always the proverbial cornflakes box.  How much does a box of corn flakes cost versus how much the farmer gets for the corn inside?  I’ve been down that trail many times before venting about the injustice of it all.

The hard part is making a difference with all this venting.  As many of you know I used to be quite involved in farm organizations.  That was a long time ago but in 2006 when farmers were rallying across Ontario, I took a lead role in that.  I’ve always believed in an agricultural safety net which works for Canadian farmers.  In 2006 we came close to getting one but as 2012 is growing old, sadly, we still are not there.  I just recently got my Agri-Stability statement from who knows when, telling me I was not eligible, for who knows what.

In Ontario, we have the risk management program supported for one more year before it is eliminated.  Of course we also have our production insurance and lots of politicians running around telling us how much they love us.  There are clawbacks of all these safety nets depending on how much is paid out from a corresponding program.  None of it makes sense.  What is worse is that even the people that are supposed to know in government don’t know.

In my mind governments are at fault for this.  I know farmers arne’t because I was there when much of this was conceived and I saw governments getting it wrong all the time.  In many ways it is extremely disappointing to me because in 2006 I thought we were on the cusp of something and essentially it is been sandbagged by the weight of the bureaucracy, which didn’t know what it was doing.  Even sadder is the fact that they cannot even be blamed because they had no guidance on what goals governments wished to attain with their safety net funding.  It is led to a point today where we are spending millions of dollars for nothing.

Current Canadian Minister of agriculture Gerry Ritz is one of the worst I’ve ever seen in terms of policy.  He has little understanding of agriculture in Eastern Canada and will likely oversee the dismantling of Canadian supply management.  However, just this morning he announced a new $500 million loan program from the Farm Credit Corporation.  It will have variable rates at prime plus a half percent, plus special fixed rates with no loan processing fees for young farmers under the age of 40.  This comes at a time when the Bank of Canada governor wants Canadians to get out of debt.

It’s like we are in an agricultural policy fantasyland where nothing works but it doesn’t matter.  Some in our federal government have even recognized it and subsequently cut the agricultural ministry more than any other department in percentage terms.  It is a total mess on the agricultural policy front.  Thankfully, our grain markets are not so much.  So that’s my venting for this week. Expect a lot more of it to come.

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