Letters to the editor – April 11, 2013

INSENSITIVE REACTION

Prime minister Steven Harper’s reaction to the untimely death of Venezuela’s popular leader, Hugo Chavez, is callous and insensitive, to say the least.

Should one have seen Harper turning cartwheels in the halls of 24 Sussex Drive, it would be no great surprise.

Harper’s statement, “I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” barely contains his jubilance on Chavez’s death.

This from a man who ignored the law countless times (CWB), prorogued Parliament and appointed lackey Conservative senators whenever it suited his needs.

Chavez was elected by the people of Venezuela, and in his 14 years in power used his country’s lucrative oil wealth on social programs such as state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. Instead of praising Chavez’s accomplishments, Harper chose to ignore them.

On the other hand, just a week previous, Harper had nothing but glowing praise for Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict), who for years harboured, protected and condoned pedophile priests who had molested thousands of children in their care.

Figure that one out.

Joyce Neufeld,
Waldeck, Sask.

ANNEXATION SICKENING

As a current University of Alberta agriculture student, the news of the annexation of prime agricultural land by the city of Edmonton for industrial and residential uses sickens me.

While a dollar figure of billions can be placed on the expansion of the city, the detrimental effects of such an annex as this one proposed is undefinable for young active members in the agriculture industry such as myself.

Mayor (Stephen) Mandel states that annexing green fields doesn’t create such a conflict and is the more proper way of expanding without inflicting upon neighbours.

I welcome Mr. Mandel to express this thought to a class of agriculture students, young men and women with a passion for agriculture, sustainability and environmental conservation.

They realize the true everlasting value within this rich black soil, its ability to grow crops, feed livestock, and filter pollutants from entering water systems to name but a few.

While this annexation of such prime agricultural land may produce lush green front lawns and contribute to the neighbourly battle within these newly developed residential and industrial areas, it will also negatively affect agriculture and the environment alike. Perhaps it’s time that the city starts to build up, not out, higher, not wider.

I understand that from the city’s perspective that it’s more cost effective and makes economic sense to build out onto lands that are relatively cheap and easy to develop. Yet this phenomenon, known as urban sprawl, is unsustainable and a type of plague for those who love agriculture and the environment.

Soil is considered a true gift for those who farm it, and once these lands are removed from agricultural production, the benefits to the farmer, our province and the environment will be lost forever.

Becky Shapka,
Willingdon, Alta.

DOCKAGE DISGUST

You know that disgusting thing they call dockage? Just look on your last elevator receipt from your beautiful wheat crop. It’ll say EWW!

I’m 24 and only been farming for 15 years, so seeing your hard work get flushed down the toilet to the elevator is disgusting. The elevators have unchecked control now that the wheat board is gone.

Last month we hauled in 10,000 bushels of that golden wheat and it was kind of unclear when the auditor was in for one week and said, “yup, it’s No. 1,” but the week after when he’s gone it’s back to No. 2, even though it was the same crop from the same bin.

The elevator then takes this degraded dirty wheat, screens and blends it, and what do you know they are loading 100 cars of No. 1 wheat with minimal dockage because they sold those as screenings. It’s an atrocity. Being only a first generation farm, that’s highway robbery as land needs to be paid for.

As globalization increases and corporate companies like grain terminals squeeze their bottom line, so too do they squeeze that family farm just trying to survive. Protein and weight are the only things that matter when it gets processed, so why rob farmers of their grade?

From now on we will invest in an indent to separate and sell our own disgusting dockage, and send samples to the grain commission so that the next time we open our back gate on the tandem, we know we are getting the best possible price.

Nowadays, it is important to diversify to survive. The power of the elevators will dig that dark hole which farmers work so hard to fill.

Brad Van Hecke,
Morinville, Alta.

REDUCE ORGANIC COSTS

I am writing in response to the article titled, “Recession took toll on organic profitability” (WP March 7). I want to begin by stating that I support organic farmers and try to eat organically as much as possible.

However, as a broke student struggling through university, purchasing organic food is often financially difficult.

I am not at all surprised that profits in the organic market fell drastically from the recession in 2009, as the prices for organic produce and meat are often double the prices of the same conventionally farmed goods.

It is mentioned in the article that organic farmers have costs associated with certification and equipment, but this is not a fair comparison to the costs of herbicides and fertilizers paid by conventional farmers, so I am left wondering why the prices vary so significantly.

I am well aware that the risk of farming organically is much higher than that of conventional farming, but that risk should not be carried onto the consumers. If the high risk of organic farming was not reflected in the price of the goods, the organic market might not have incurred such a financial decline during the recession.

Periods of recession and growth will continue in the future and if organic farmers want long-term financial stability, they should work with the suppliers in reducing price swings and overall costs to consumers.

Melissa Gelineau,
Edmonton, Alta.

CROWN PRIVATIZATION

To ensure his party’s election, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall promised not to privatize the crowns. Wall’s promise belies his government’s actions.

While keeping its preference for privatization to itself, his government set up schemes to weaken the crowns. The Sask. First policy saw (environment minister Ken) Cheveldayoff restrict crown operations, forcing them to divest out-of-province profitable assets while discouraging them from competing with private firms in Saskatchewan.

Profitable Direct West Canada, Hospitality Network, Agdealer and Navigata were sold at fire sale prices while residential services were privately contracted.

People, owners of the crowns, weren’t consulted. Only high-risk, low return projects were left. Wall’s government engineered a losing plan for our crowns.

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix called the Sask. First policy “ideologically driven and harmful to the citizens.”

With long-term viability at risk, (columnist) Murray Mandryk wondered if the Sask. First policy would result in “barely profitable entities ripe for privatization.”

Saskatchewan folk need remember how Gary Filmon’s 1990s Manitoba Tory government promised never to privatize the crowns and how in 1996 he sold Manitoba’s Telephone System with no public consultation. Lucrative MTS assets were turned over to the private sector, telemarketing services contracted out and the co-axial cable system sold for 20 percent of value.

Wall’s government’s raiding of crown dividends to balance government’s accounts reduces the crowns’ investments in infrastructure and innovation. Ron Styles, chief executive officer for SaskTel, explains that a loss of 90 percent of the crown’s profits could raise SaskTel’s debt-to-equity ratio. Wall could then use this as leverage to privatize the crowns. Shareholders would profit and Saskatchewan people would lose services.

Joan Bell,
Saskatoon, Sask.

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