Ag system has problems
Re: CBC interviewee’s suggestions would set agriculture back 50 years,” (WP, Aug. 15)
Stuart Smyth makes an argument about Canadian agriculture that doesn’t misrepresent the numbers — just the reality.
Smyth says we are producing big yields but doesn’t mention farmers’ profit margin is down, nor explain why there are so many hungry people in the world in spite of tremendous yield increases. He also doesn’t notice our difficulty in maintaining core community services with ever-growing farm sizes.
He supports trade agreements but misses the fact that our Canadian cattle herd is shrinking, limiting a growth in exports because it just doesn’t pay. The dairy sector had to “take one for the team” just to get an agreement. What is great about that? And, the grain “surplus” (in spite of world hunger), combined with a marketing system that no longer “shares the gain” with farmers, determines the price of grain — not trade agreements.
Smyth fails to notice that large integrated corporations capture more than their share with high chemical and fertilizer costs utilizing the data they are now collecting with their overpriced machinery.
He doesn’t mention the emission increases that generate high yields. Chemicals, fertilizers and their transport all use water and oil in huge amounts. Climate change is here — we farmers must deal with the extremes in weather that come with it and reflect on the overall impact of big input, big yield methods.
Low prices, high input costs and new extremes in weather are pushing farmers to look critically at the big input and big yield cropping model and will drive the search for alternatives like intercropping and maximizing use of marginal land through non-cropping options.
It is a misrepresentation to say critics are trying to go back to the 1970s just because we have valid objections to the key elements of today’s system.