Walk the walk on the environment, canola farmers



The Canola Council of Canada is taking heat over participating in a research project where Ducks Unlimited Canada is also a supporter.

While I adore social media for all its advantages, at times it can be an absolute cesspool of nastiness, knee-jerk reactions, and blowing something way out of proportion before getting even a few facts straight. The response to Sunday’s tweet is one of these examples, and one where the possible real-world fallout would be disproportionate to the supposed “wrong doing.”

The tweet in question surrounds a multi-year, multi-funder, four-year project led by the University of Calgary looking at arthropod (insects and more) populations and their habitats. Ducks Unlimited is, yes, involved. The organization is listed as providing $20,000 “in-kind” over four years. While there is a cash component, DUC’s contribution is largely made up of site access. Like it or not, DUC manages a huge number of wetlands and has monitoring sites already in place. It totally makes sense to include these monitoring sites in this project.

Projects like this one are important for several reasons, not the least of which is that they add credence to the whole “we’re stewards of the land” chant that grain farmers stress when dealing with a curious (and sometimes demanding) public. Guess what? At some point, if you want to talk the talk you have to walk the walk, and understanding the full impact of farming practices on insect populations is a key part of that.

Nature is not there for us to exploit, it’s there to be worked with. Respect for our land and our soil means respecting those that also inhabit it — insects, birds, small mammals, livestock, and, yes, crops. As farmers, we have to be honest with ourselves and our customers: farming has an impact on the habitat around it, but that impact doesn’t have to be inherently negative.

That said, without research that looks at the impact of annual cropping on things such as soil health, water quality, and insect populations, we don’t actually KNOW, and we can’t effectively explain the why of what we do without that knowledge. What’s more, we can’t improve our farming practices without first recognizing where we need to do better.

Go ahead and hate on Ducks Unlimited all you want, but pulling this project, as at least one provincial grower group has asked for, or pulling your levy contribution over access to monitoring sites would be short-sighted at best, and disingenuous at worst.

Related: Canola Council research project promotion illuminates strained relationship over land use

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