For decades now we have frequently heard phrases like, “We need to speak as one,” or “We are better together than fighting among ourselves,” when it comes to agriculture policy in this country.
While the phrases have been uttered, there never seemed to be any real action. Now, don’t get me wrong, a historical lack of unity makes sense, given Canadian agriculture’s economic and geographical diversity. Naturally, because of these challenges, much more attention is applied to the differences in agriculture segments versus what what everyone has in common. Instead of being viewed and heard as a a robust, valuable, national industry, agriculture is seen — and largely functions — as a fragmented group of minor groups all trying to be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
For the first time, I actually think the tide is turning.
I have begun to hear farm group leaders referencing the plight or success of their agricultural peers outside of their traditional scope.
Last week at Grow Canada, I heard Markus Haerle, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, bring up the trade damages to eastern soybean growers and western canola growers in the same example. In an appearance on RealAg Radio last week, Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Mary Robinson mentioned that Dairy Farmers of Canada mentioned the need for the federal government to assist broadacre growers impacted by trade disruption. I think this a major indication that a shift has begun.
These examples may seem small, but after talking to people in agriculture across Canada for the past eleven years, I can tell you that I have rarely heard anything but geographical limitations and very little support for each sector’s plights.
Soybean growers are soybean growers no matter which province they are in. Beef and dairy producers face common challenges on feed, hook space, and animal welfare. The pulse and protein industries can work together to expand and balance protein on the plate.
I think that agriculture, as a sector, may be finally realizing that as such a small amount of the population, it needs to leverage its geographical scope, economic power, and consumer goodwill to influence government, society, and even its own members.
It’s only a start, but I sincerely hope this teamwork between agriculture sectors and its leadership continues.