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Letters – for May. 13, 2010

We welcome readers’comments on issues that have been covered in the Manitoba Co-operator. In most cases we cannot accept “open” letters or copies of letters which have been sent to several publications. Letters are subject to editing for length or taste. We suggest a maximum of about 300 words.

Farmers heading back to bad old days

I was honoured to participate in the House of Commons’ agriculture committee hearings on young farmers and the future of farming at Lanigan, Sask. on April 28. I have spent many years travelling and dealing with all stripes of politicans, on my own time and money, for the betterment of all farmers – and especially young farmers, who are our future.

The meeting went all right, until some young, arrogant farmers indicated that their biggest problem in agriculture was the “old farmer.” Our forefathers came to Canada because of the feudal system in Europe; barons controlled that system. Our forefathers worked hard at farming and tried to make sure their sons and daughters would carry on farming into the next generation.

Those arrogant, young farmers should work with old farmers for intergenerational farm transfers, due to the high capital investment needed to start farming. We as farmers in 2010 are heading back into the feudal system, controlled this time by multinational companies and investors. Fourthgeneration farmers are disappearing fast and fifth-generation farmers will be extinct.

Young farmers and other so-called cutting-edge farmers will have to get their acts together to lobby the government of the day to develop policies that are good for all farmers, not insane policies that only benefit the multinationals.

Sitting back and doing nothing will result in more farms ending up in auction catalogues and those very young, arrogant farmers will be slaves to multinationals and farm investor groups. Edward Sagan Melville, Sask.

An Industry In Shambles

Any pleas for help from the federal government have fallen on deaf ears. When GM and Chrysler came calling, they had no trouble rolling out billions. Even the hog industry got a little help with the sow buyout program. At least a few people were able to salvage something and exit the industry with a little dignity.

We have AgriStability, which is a sick joke. Virtually no cow-calf producers ever get any help from this program. We have been in the cattle industry for 40-some years, a cow-calf and small feedlot operation, feeding our own cattle as a finished product for a value-added dollar. This industry is dead, with losses of up to $200 a head last year.

In Manitoba we cannot compete with packer-integrated large feedlots, which buy calves and short-keep feeders far below the cost of production in Western Canada, then source feed from all over North America – some of it subsidized American corn and ethanol byproducts.

Our organizations such as the MCPA need to get a lot more militant on our behalf. This policy of talking softly and offending no one has just not worked, and continued pronouncements of better things to come ring a little hollow. The latest was that we would be in the promised land by 2014. They should have played a verse from the old song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” after that piece of news.

We need at least a 20 per cent herd reduction to get back to profitability. Maybe a buyout of breeding stock by the federal government would be a solution. As it is now, very few cow-calf operations can stand on their own feet; they need off-farm money to sustain them. Off-farm paycheques, Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan cheques prop up a lot of them. This situation is just not acceptable.

Henry Martens Cartwright, Man.

AAFC’s Response To Auditor General’s Report

I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to Ron Friesen’s article “Auditor general criticizes AAFC research management” in the Manitoba Co-operator April 29.

First, let me state that we have accepted the recommendations outlined in the auditor general’s report and have already taken action to address them.

We have a Science and Innovation Strategic Action Plan that provides clear direction and priorities for research at AAFC – research that benefits farmers, the agricultural sector, and Canadians.

AAFC’s Research Branch activities focus on the science needed by the agriculture and agri-food sectors, and the action plan ensures the department uses its science resources – people, infrastructure and funds – effectively.

Our research scientists and staff are essential to our future, and we are committed to ensuring the renewal of our workforce.

The Research Branch’s three-year human resources plan identifies all future staffing needs to ensure we have the talent and skills we need to deliver on our priorities. This includes replacing retiring scientists, and over the next 18 months, 49 scientist positions will be filled.

With regards to the department’s research buildings, if you consider the buildings where our critical research work is done, the auditor general’s report found that of the 19 main office laboratory complexes, 84 per cent are in average, good or excellent condition.

When you include all of the department’s research buildings, many of which are barns, sheds and other large, unheated outbuildings, the majority (74 per cent) were rated as average or above (29 per cent).

The department will do regular inspections of its key facilities to ensure our staff have the tools and facilities necessary to properly do their jobs and meet departmental priorities.

In addition, Canada’s Economic Action Plan includes an investment of up to $26 million to help modernize eight AAFC laboratories across the country. With the help of the Economic Action Plan, AAFC has invested more in its infrastructure over the last two years than in any year in the last decade.

As for the collaborative approach we are taking to

research, by working with industry, other governments and academia, we are able to yield important results for Canadians and improve profitability for farmers.

Examples of these results include developing new cold-tolerant cherry varieties that can be harvested later, and lettuce varieties resistant to heat stress; developing environment-friendly biopesticides; and collaborating in international efforts to combat Ug99, a devastating wheat fungus that has the potential to damage large portions of the world’s wheat crops.

We’re also investing over $200 million a year into long-term public good research.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is committed to implementing its Science and Innovation Strategic Action Plan, to ensure we continue helping the agricultural sector achieve greater competitiveness, improve environmental performance, increase the security of the agricultural sector and contribute to the health and well-being of Canadians.

Marc Fortin, PhD Assistant deputy minister,

Research Branch Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

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