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Cooperation is key for farmers and new government

So, the new federal government looks pretty much the same as the old government.

And why wouldn’t it?

Many voters are shaking their heads at the election outcome, annoyed at the expense and bother of it all. But if everyone voted the same as they did in the last election, the results were predictable: Politically, more of the same.

In agriculture, now comes the inevitable routine repair work job by the Liberals. Farmers vote Conservative, and while the Liberals sometimes earn their praise, they usually earn their scorn.

And if some farmers had something to do with helping the People’s Party of Canada gain a bit of steam, then the effort will be harder still… although given the PPC’s strident anti-supply management position, it does not have the support of agriculture as a whole.

Once the dust settles, the task at hand will be about the environment – just like it was before the election. The agricultural sector knows that people want it to be responsible, particularly in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But agriculture also wants and needs people to know that it’s not starting from ground zero. Through the years, farmers have taken many measures to be environmentally responsible. Farmers in Ontario led the rest of the country in enacting plans to kick up their farms’ environmental quotients. Those efforts included the likes of keeping cattle out of waterways, preventing erosion and similar tactics.

Farmers deserve to be recognized for the efforts they’ve made. But going forward, they want to be compensated for measures that they’re expected to make – or at the very least, not be taxed for doing some of the things they need to do, like dry their grain.

Understandably, climate change has them on edge about this. They can’t do anything about extreme weather, and they don’t think they should be penalized for it.

Indeed, that issue was on the front burner before the election, and it’s not going away.

Following the federal election, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the province’s largest commodity organization, sent its congratulations to the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party of Canada on the election win.

It vowed to work with all federal parties to address the needs of grain farmers.

Further, it offered to support federal representatives who want to understand grain farming better.

That’s the kind of conciliatory attitude that will make a difference. If farmers and governments at any level are looking at themselves as adversaries, progress is doubtful. Of course, they’ll disagree on some issues, but animosity won’t get the two sides anywhere.

That’s particularly true as agriculture positions itself to help the country piece itself back together again, post pandemic.

“We hope that the new government will continue to look to agriculture to play an important part in the economic recovery and help us be successful partners for them,” said Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Brendan Byrne.

Grain farmers want Ottawa to give them a hand in all this. They’ve asked the new federal government to commit to three things.

First, they want programs that offer better support to farmers in times of crisis. Current programs are inadequate, they say, and need to be improved “to protect grain farming families in years where farm economic sustainability is dramatically impacted.”

As well, they want what they call a “low carbon toolbox” to help Canada achieve net-zero objectives. That includes proven fossil fuel alternatives for drying grain.

And finally, they want Ottawa to defend existing markets and find new markets for grains and oilseeds.
Grains imported into Canada receive massive subsidies, they say, and aren’t subject to the same kind of carbon tax as Ontario grains.

This is all positive. Progress is at hand, and working together is key.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
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