There’s more to write about sustainability

I sometimes worry that the surest way to chase readers away from a story is to put the word “sustainability” in the headline.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the topic. In fact, it’s probably one of the most critical issues that the agricultural industry will face in the upcoming years.

My concern is that the word has become so ubiquitous that reader fatigue could be setting in.

So that said, it might be fair to ask why we decided to dedicate pages 1, 4 and 5 to the topic in the March 11 edition of the paper.

I didn’t know this was going to happen at the beginning of the week, but then reporters started filing their story plans and it became apparent we were on to something.

First, Doug Ferguson from Calgary told me he had covered a seminar where speakers talked about the challenge farmers face as they attempt to drastically increase production while dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Then Robert Arnason from Winnipeg decided he wanted to explore whether canola can be considered sustainable.

And finally, Ed White from Winnipeg included on his story list one from a conference he had covered about how labels such as sustainability could be used to give prairie crops a competitive advantage.

These were three different stories connected by a common theme — how is today’s focus on sustainability likely to affect prairie farmers?

We’ve been talking about sustainability for a long time, often using different definitions.

Some have focused on the environment with organic production playing a major role.

Others talk about it in terms of allowing farmers to remain profitable into the future.

Today, sustainability is often linked to climate change and the need for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The term “carbon footprint” has become common.

We may not all agree with how governments are approaching this issue. For example, a case can be made for the carbon tax, but farmers definitely need exemptions on fuel used for drying grain and heating farm shops. As well, compensation for practices such as direct seeding can’t just start in 2017.

However, I think we can all agree that efforts to mitigate climate change are probably here to stay, and sustainability will continue to be a major part of that discussion.

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