Throughout this past summer, Senator Rob Black spent time away from the Senate touring farms and agricultural facilities across Canada.
The reasoning? To learn more about agriculture’s work, industry concerns, pandemic challenges, and opportunities for the future, as Senator Black has a focus on agriculture and agri-food, rural spaces, and youth in the Senate.
“If I don’t know what’s happening on the ground, I can’t speak knowledgeably in the Senate of Canada,” explains Senator Black, in a recent conversation with RealAgriculture founder Shaun Haney.
During Black’s travels across the country, while recognizing the vast facets of the industry, he noticed there were many similarities in the asks and concerns of farmers and ranchers.
“The issues in general terms were the same. Marketing, access to to markets, transportation, labour issues. They are all little nuances but it is a big country that we live in,” he says, adding the transportation issues he specifically heard were surrounding getting commodities and products to market.
Although some of the things he experienced weren’t a surprise, other parts of the trip proved to be very educational.
“I was fascinated out there in Southern Alberta about how water gets from the foothills in the mountains into southeastern Alberta and even into Saskatchewan. That was all new to me,” explains Black.
It wasn’t just the agricultural industry he communicated with along the trail, he also spoke to municipality and county leaders, as well as mayors. There was a commonality there, on an issue many are no stranger to: access to rural broadband and how much still needs to be done.
“For the government to say 96 per cent of the country to be covered by 2030 is nine years too late in my mind. It’s something we need now. This pandemic has just exacerbated it. We live, we work, and we play in our own towns for the most part. For the last 18 months it has been live work and play over Zoom and other platforms, and in rural Ontario and across rural Canada, you can’t rely on it.”
Check out the full conversation for more on Senator Black’s travels, including carbon pricing, soil health studies, and good eats across the country: