From the Archives: Wheat breeders told to focus on yields not quality

The Western Producer takes a weekly look at some of the stories that made headlines in issues of the paper from 75, 50, 25 and 10 years ago.

75 years ago: May 21, 1942

The National Dairy Council warned of a serious butter shortage before the end of the year unless butter prices were brought into a more “balanced relationship” with other dairy products.

The council recommended increasing butterfat prices by five cents a pound but didn’t say whether it should be paid by a subsidy or an increase in the retail price of butter.

The federal government had been hoping Canadian farmers would double the number of acres they would seed to flax, but a seeding forecast by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics indicated that acreage would be only 537,100 acres more than the previous year, or a 54 percent increase.

50 years ago: May 25, 1967

G.N. Irvine, director of the Board of Grain Commissioners’ Grain Research Laboratory, said high quality wheat was becoming less important and urged breeders to concentrate more on increasing yields in new varieties.

The federal and provincial governments agreed to spend $85 million over the next 10 years to redevelop Manitoba’s Interlake region. The project was the third big experiment in upgrading the standard of rural life under the Agriculture and Rural Development Act and the Fund for Rural Economic Development. The first two had been in New Brunswick.

25 years ago: May 21, 1992

Saskatchewan farmers fighting government changes to the Gross Revenue Insurance Plan won their first round in court. A judge extended the program deadline until a court could decide if the changes made by the provincial government were legal.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney promised to strongly defend Canadian farmers’ interests when he visited U.S. President George Bush in Washington. It sounded like he would be particularly focusing on American farm subsidies, which he said cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, drove Canadian farmers out of business and hurt the Third World. “They don’t make any sense,” Mulroney said. “These are the kinds of arguments we will be making.”

10 years ago: May 24, 2007

There were different ways to approach the 2006 Census of Agriculture. Bob Friesen, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, focused on fewer farms, older farmers, rising input costs, squeezed margins and increased off-farm work. “This does not look like an industry that is sustainable,” he said. But Catherine Cromey, manager of the census for Statistics Canada, focused on bigger and more diversified farms, greater use of technology and a sharp increase in the number of Canadian farms grossing $1 million or more in 2005. “I would say this reflects a sector that is very resilient, considering the disease and weather problems the industry has faced,” she said.

Farm equipment thefts were drawing so much attention that Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba had begun including reports of missing equipment in the weekly updates it emailed and faxed to members. John Schmeiser, executive vice-president of the Canada West Equipment Dealers Association, said tractor thefts had been reported at consistent levels for the past three or four years.

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