Farm income is main key to sustainability

Auditable sustainability measurements will arrive on all of our farms at some point in the future, and, in a few cases, these are already here.

With verified production programs that ensure we are meeting one factor or another of the market’s desires, we find ourselves more and more in a time when precision agriculture becomes a tool of the whole food chain rather than a tool of production advancement and margin enhancement.

Tracking and traceability might not hit commodity canola, corn and soybean acres as soon as specialty-crop production, but for the former crops, it will arrive before most producers are likely ready for it and long before it is welcomed.

Bold presentations to the Canadian Senate’s agriculture committee spoke to it again last week, as they have throughout the fall, about how Canada has an opportunity to profit from adding value to our agricultural production, including through documenting sustainable practices.

Livestock producers have been participating in traceability and have seen methods of tracking that can pay premiums, or at least minimize discounts, for their production for many years.

Farmers are at the end of the supply chain that takes all the hits to the pay packet. The middle and consumer ends are more concentrated and far better at managing risk and price, and have the only channels to share any new cost pains, no matter how noble.

From the highway, many of the presentations to our nation’s Senate related to its “study of how the value-added food sector can be more competitive in global markets” would imply that there will be some trickle-down effects on our nation’s farms. However, a few one-time technology grants and inspirational seminars don’t create the true sustainability we are hoping to market to the world. True sustainability comes through net farm income.

We need to convince our legislators that new initiatives and investments that build on Canada’s reputation for food quality, safety and sustainability need to be tied to long-term farm tax programming, technology investment credits and projects that create sustainable, positive net farm income that doesn’t rely solely on consolidation.

To reach out to your Senate committee members, I will list their names and contact information with this column on producer.com.

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