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Toban Dyck: Do we have too many speakers in agriculture?

Let’s use the snow rotation to think about what we want to say, and how

“Snow rotation” is a phrase I still hear from time to time. When I first heard it, the person explaining it laughed. The phrase is out of vogue, but there’s something to the idea that Canada’s winters have a restorative power.

A few cold days, a bit of snow, a break from work and almost all the negativity associated with the 2019 growing season has been pushed out of my mind. There are still realities to face, but right now I am hopeful about the year ahead. Let’s call it the snow-rotation effect.

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In the three years I have been working in the commodity association world, a few things have sunk in. I repeat, only a few things.

There are a tremendous number of voices in agriculture. Every producer groups has a board made up of at least a few who are willing to travel to Ottawa or their provincial legislature to represent the interests of their corner of the sector. It’s a great opportunity for farmers to visit Parliament Hill or shake hands with a cabinet minister. And having our federal leaders hear farmers’ concerns is a critical element of a functioning democracy.

There is a palpable push in the agriculture sector right now to be loud. We have a lot to say to our lawmakers on a variety of issues. We want Canada to do its part to restore our beleaguered markets, raise commodity prices and ensure farmers are being considered intelligently on files like carbon tax and sustainability.

Some of us have quick answers to these complex issues and some of us are quick to give our opinion at the first sight of an open mic, believing that the only reason our version of what should be happening hasn’t materialized yet is because nobody’s heard it yet.

It’s not my intention to come down with anything resembling a hammer, but I do think there are times when we need to think, act and speak strategically and intelligently instead of impulsively.

If you don’t believe in climate change, you should know that to say as much out loud to groups of people neither gives you nor the industry you represent any sort of advantage. It does the opposite. Good policy doesn’t come at the hands of people unwilling to bend nor at the hands of people unwilling to work with the current political and social climate.

I attended a conference in 2019 where a presenter spoke for quite some time about the upcoming green technology revolution. He got a lot of opposition from the mostly farmer audience. Then the speaker who followed offered some context. An audience member had mentioned that despite all of green energy’s claims, coal was still a booming business in the U.S.

The speaker offering context said that the coal companies that foresaw the shift to greener, more sustainable practices and started implementing them are the ones that survived. The ones that dug their heels in and refused to make their operations more sustainable shut their doors.

The presenter made this point with the diplomacy and grace of a thousand Yodas. It was impressive and the agricultural sector needs more people like him.

We’re all burdened by the great purpose of enlightening Trudeau’s government on agriculture’s needs and challenges, but we need to be careful. Despite the fact that media is often merciless and imbalanced towards agriculture, we don’t need to be the same towards the very people we need in our court.

Rigid thinking is not a show of strength or confidence. It’s something much different.

We can’t all speak. We shouldn’t all speak. Boards need to choose their spokespeople and making sure they represent the interests of their farmers and that they are equipped with a full picture before getting in front of the mic.

Let’s use the snow rotation to clear our heads and think about what it is we want to say and to whom.

Agriculture is full of smart people. Let’s not shroud that fact under stale and stubborn attitudes. Before you think I am blameless here, I am not. I bend towards rigid thinking. When I hear it in others, however, it motivates me to change. It’s not how I want to represent myself nor my industry.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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