Governments need to support agriculture when a sector goes through hard times. Farmers feed the world, and the non-farming public should understand this

The public and government could let farming die so that the commenter will feel better about the perceptual use of his tax dollars, but the realities of letting agriculture die like the U. S. government let Lehman Brothers die would have far worse ramifications across North America and the world.

A reader left a comment for Harry Siemens at www.siemenssays.com saying farmers are whining about being broke and that it is all just B. S. The commenter added that he thinks farmers are just triple A, which meant April-August-Arizona. Finally the commenter wrote that agriculture is already over subsidized based on the fact farmers do not pay tax.

I think that as farmers we need to mentor the uneducated that are two generations from the farm. Farmers need to change their perceptions. We cannot just sit back and say “you’re an idiot” or “city people just don’t get it.” We need to inform the non-educated on what really happens on the farm today.

Farming is not having the land version of Noah’s ark and it is not wearing coveralls to church. Farming is sophisticated and requires immense

knowledge and skills to survive in today’s business world. That’s right I said business and not lifestyle. Farming is a business that requires skills no different than if you owned a small software company in Silicon Valley or a hardware store in Toronto. If you farm and still think farming is a lifestyle you are living in the past, and I strongly feel that worse yet you do not understand the continued shift required to

survive in today’s farming marketplace.

No doubt many sectors of agriculture right now are facing many challenges just like in the car business or newspaper business. Ironically, Ford Motors, the newspapers and farms are mainly owned by family corporations and their equity is being slowly eroded over time due to slimming margins and at times poor management or the wrong decisions

at the wrong time.

I can say quite confidently that farmers do not enjoy the government having to subsidize the industry in order to have sustainability. The single biggest challenge facing the industry and government in the short and long term is to develop a system where grain farmers and livestock producers can both be sustainable in the long term. The feast and famine scenario present today has resulted in both sectors being unviable without government help. I think the proof is in the attendance at farm shows this January. I have heard that several farm shows have experienced lower attendance in comparison to prior years. This is not because people are in Arizona. It’s because farms, like big business, are cutting expenses to manage their operations.

To the criticism of farmers taking holidays, I say let’s be serious. What percentage of farmers spend the whole winter in the south? For those low percentages of farmers holidaying in the south, how many are semiretired and have younger people managing the farm on a full time basis. The other ridiculous side of this argument is that if your farm received a payment, the commenter is saying that you can not take a mental break from your operation. You must spend 365 days on your farm slaving away so that the commenter can continue to have cheap food.

For the critics of agriculture and the government’s policies, I say that you must take the time to understand the changing culture within the agricultural industry. When I look across at my peers in agriculture, I see the stereotypes changing. I see an industry full of innovation and technology, and the drive by the participants to implement that technology to feed the world. They take feeding the world very seriously and don’t use it as a badge of armor but as the statement of reality. The public and government could let farming die so that the commenter will feel better about the perceptual use of his tax dollars, but the realities of letting agriculture die like the U. S. government let Lehman Brothers die would have far worse ramifications across North America and the world. I am not suggesting that there should be blank cheque handouts either, but please try and understand what is really happening on the farm today.

There is no easy solution to all the adversity that is facing agriculture right now. Just like in other industries, the recession and the economy are on the minds of all farmers. As farmers, we do need to work hard at trying to educate the public on the industry we love. Farming is changing in the challenges we face and the role we play on the international stage. As farmers, we must take a leadership role in making sure that the public (our consumer) does not develop the same feelings as the commenter on www.siemenssays.com.We need to lead the customer and help them understand our industry.

Shaun Haney publishes the Haney Farms Quarterly and his blog, which can be found at www.realagriculture.com.Haney Farms is located in Picture Butte, Alta., and is involved in the grain, seed and beef business. You can contact Shaun at 1-877-738-4517 or [email protected] haneyfarms.com.

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