For anyone involved in Canadian agriculture, it’s pretty hard to miss the news of what is going on in Alberta with Bill 6 and the farmer uprising against it. Social and print media alike are on fire with farmer protests. If you are not up with what Bill 6 is all about, read more about it on Real Agriculture here, or how it directly effects Alberta farmers here on a post from Sarah Schultz of Nurse Loves Farmer (she does a much better job at explaining this than I could!)
Last year saw similar farmer strife in Ontario surrounding their government Neonic insecticide ban.
Those of us lucky enough to farm here in Saskatchewan are happily sitting back and rubbing our proverbially full tummies, proclaiming to the world how awesome we have it here. I’ll admit it, I’ve sent my fair share of boastful tweets about how great farming in Saskatchewan is.
But before we get too comfortable sitting back resting on our laurels, take a moment to rewind Alberta back 4 or so years. I am pretty darn sure they were in our spot then; pretty happy sitting back, looking at places like Ontario, with a “It can’t happen here, we have it great!” kinda attitude.
After speaking with a handful of great farmers from both Alberta and Ontario, I have come up with a collection of advice that both they and I feel that the Saskatchewan agriculture industry needs to learn from their mistakes.
1. Engage Our Politicians BEFORE we have a problem. Do you know what kind of constituents that politicians NEVER hear from? Happy ones!! They are so accustomed to only hearing from people with a beef, it must be increadibly wearing. These are the people driving policy that directly effects our business. This is who we need to connect with and forge relationships with long before there is a fire to be put out. Don’t just leave it up to our industry/commodity groups. It is up to each one of us to be the leader in this relationship.
2. Never forget the power of consumer popular opinion. The driving force behind the Neonic ban in Ontario didn’t come from well meaning (but clueless) politicians. An outcry from urban consumers alarmed about the seemingly imminent “Beepocalypse” is what drove such unscientific policy. Ontario farmers have lamented that they did not move quickly enough to bridge the disconnect between viral social media hysteria in consumers, and what the real issues are on farms.
3. Never underestimate the power of banding together. I think every farmer out there can see how difficult it can be to get a consensus (on any given subject) with a large group of other farmers. We can be judgemental of each other and can have a real hard time holding our tongues and opinions in. Of what has been happening in Alberta, I think there is one thing most Alta farmers can agree on. They are incredibly proud of the way they have banded together. Even the Hutterites, who the government offered to exempt from bill 6, have stuck by their fellow farmers and demanded that the government hear the farmers collective voice. Moving forward, whatever complex issues and problems are thrown at the Sask Ag industry this is a lesson we must remember. There is power in numbers and a united voice.
Every election year brings new faces in power, whether there is a change in government or not. As we look to our own provincial election this spring, how comfortable are we with the outcome? How comfortable are we with the relationship we have with Canadian consumers? How skilled are we at supporting our fellow farmers?
We are so very blessed to be lucky enough to be farming in Saskatchewan (and not just for the low land prices!). Are we ready to look outside of our neat, straight borders and see what the future could hold for us? Are we ready?