American farmers can get away with risk-taking that is likely to devistate reckless Canadian farmers.
European farmers can also roll the dice on gambles that are likely to destroy Canadians.
Each of those giant players has enormous domestic markets and a government committed to protecting producers. When foreign markets are shut off for them, it’s a hit but not a disaster.
Not so Canada.
It’s become obvious in the past three years that we have entered a New World Anti-Trade Order, and that’s bad news for western Canadian farmers in a nation that produces large agricultural surpluses, has only a tiny domestic market to fall back upon, and which has a political structure that makes prairie farmers unlikely to find major national support in a crisis, at least in comparison to the kind of aid European and American farmers are likely to receive in a similar situation.
Large-scale grain and large-scale livestock production economics have a lot of similarities regardless of nation, region or environment. And export-oriented farming industries also share many commonalities.
But I think Western Canada’s farmers face a unique set and structure of challenges and risks that requires a uniquely western Canadian approach to balancing the opportunities of coming decades with much higher levels of risk than faced by most of our competitors.
I’ve got my own guesses about how prairie farms need to be designed to survive and thrive, involving a combination of cost-of-production, debt, market access, safety net and diversification factors.
But the nice thing about my job is that I get to call the best and brightest in agricultural economics and farm management and get from them more educated thoughts on this topic than I’m capable of producing right now.
So that’s what I’m hoping to bring you in the coming weeks: a series of viewpoints on how prairie farmers can set themselves up to survive the hostile new export environment and thrive in a future that promises growing demand and appreciation for the things western Canadian farmers do such a good job of growing and raising.
It’s a promising future.
It’s a threatening future.
How do prairie farmers set up to face both realities?