I had the opportunity to sit and have a talk with former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall on a stage in Saskatoon during Crop Week, and from the size of the crowd, I was assured producers were interested in his opinions.
I mostly kept mine to myself, saving them up for this space and for yelling into the rearview mirror on the three-hour commute to and from the farm.
After 10 years at the helm of Canada’s largest agriculturally driven province — annually kicking nearly $30 billion in receipts out the farm gates, and during a time of record-setting commodity price longevity — I was curious about what must be just a few of the truths he had learned.
Among the ideas he suggested, Wall was enthusiastic about a plan that would better tell the story of agriculture and energy. He even volunteered some of his retirement time to work on improving the public relations of the sectors, but they would need to work together. He referred to it as working in unity for the good of the province and the region.
He said that farmers often view the oil and gas sector with some trepidation, not wanting to be tarred with a tar brush. But, the industries likely need each other to present their shared positions due to a common residency inside the often harsh world of commodities and non-resident public opinion.
Wall suggested that the good science and economics that support agriculture, and often energy, has often been lost in the popular noise, and both industries have failed to invest appropriately in their dialogues with the greater public.
Also popular with crowd were the former premier’s thoughts on populism, suggesting that his government knew it was a rising trend but not to the extent that it has become around the world.
Wall suggested that some governments are so deep in rhetoric that they have lost sight of positive policy outcomes, and would-be politicians and governments will use agriculture as a tool to meet their needs at the polls.
“How could 10,593 dairy farmers from Canada have such a big influence on the United States of America when it came to renewing one of the largest free-trade agreements anywhere?… It wasn’t about Canada’s tiny dairy market or its farmers,” said Wall.
“This is why our diplomatic core is so important. That is something I learned along the way.”