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Letters – for Oct. 29, 2009

Consumer and producer disconnect growing

While I appreciate and share Laura Rance’s concern for the world’s needy “Stuffed and starved,” Manitoba Co-operator Oct. 15, 2009, I can’t help but feel her editorial is, in itself, a prime example of the growing consumer/ producer disconnect that Rance refers to and which many fellow producers wish to see corrected.

Because if the reasonably well-informed editor of a farm publication honestly believes that I have somehow (and rather confusingly in my opinion) “used efficiency gains … to increase consumption” via reduced tillage, one can only imagine the conclusions that our largely ill-informed urban cousins would jump to if they were to follow the same logic.

Further, her belief that modern agriculture “deplete(s) soil at twice the rate of soil formation” and her willingness to quote a professor of journalism whose best solution to our dependence on industrial fertilizers is mandatory household composting, illustrates very clearly how out of touch consumers are with the realities of modern farming and how easily they can be misled by an 8,000-word essay authored by someone who probably can’t discern a bushel of wheat from a barrel of monkeys.

Obviously my best efforts at producing cheap, safe and nutritious food are unappreciated by the likes of Michael Pollan and they never will be. He has been spoiled by an excess of food his entire life – his country’s obesity rate proves it.

Nothing I say or do will change his opinion so I’m not going to waste my time trying. But one would hope that people of some influence at the grassroots level such as Rance will remain open-minded enough to base their opinions of modern agriculture on conversations with those who earn their living from the soil, rather than those who simply theorize and write about it.

There are now a billion people counting on this to happen. Mark Keating Russell, Man.

But nobody listened or paid attention.

A decade later, where was the precautionary principle or any common sense, for that matter, when the now, NDP government provided phosphorus regulation limits of more than 800 pounds per acre province-wide? Plants cannot absorb such an excess of nutrients.

In fact, 25 to 30 pounds per acre is generally enough to sustain most crops that are grown in Manitoba.

There is your relationship answer to too much phosphorus. The excess is what poses the threat to the environment. It is transferred by rains, floods snow-melt and soil erosion and ends up in our water sources.

I think the $300,000 of taxpayers’ dollars would be better spent to help clean up Lake Winnipeg or even address some of the concerns expressed in Allan Dawson’s Page 10 article headlined “KAP delegates critical of province.” John Fefchak Virden, Man. or scientific, the fact of the matter is that public opinion and buying habits will drive the change. One of the arguments was that high productivity assumes animal wellness, whereas it actually reflects the will to live no matter how detrimental the circumstances of life may be. The currently held position by pork producers is not sustainable. To restrict undesirable behaviour by restricting all behaviour just doesn’t wash.

I empathize with pork producer Marg Rempel who may in fact not treat her animals poorly, and doesn’t know anybody who treats their animals poorly.

But I think that the documentation and photos provided by Twyla Francois at the debate clearly show that this is not always the case. My household pays the extra cost to purchase pork that is humanely raised. I believe that as the facts become clearer – and they will – that more people will make the switch. Instead of fighting this every step of the way, why not become leaders in Canada by being proactive instead of reactive to change?

This is a tremendous opportunity for the factory farm producers to embrace the inevitable; I believe that there is a lot more profit to be made from straw-based group housing systems. Advertise this and people will buy. There is nothing “so-called” about factory farms and their negative effect is much more than on the animals. Why don’t the pork producers and the Manitoba Pork Council lobby for tax breaks for the changeover?

This topic is not going to go away.

Not ready to be put out to pasture

Cameron Kent’s comment, “it’s time for the grey hairs to leave the cattle business” in the Oct. 22 article “High Dollar, Bad U. S. Economy Hitting Cow-Calf Producers” is disrespectful and discriminatory. We live in a democratic country where free enterprise has no age limits. All cattle producers today are in survival mode and the strong will survive.

Sean Tolton’s remark, “the herds that are being indirectly subsidized by pension cheques need to go” is thoughtless and selfish. How do Kent and Tolton plan to get rid of us? Are they willing to give us fair market value for our herds, land and machinery?

The cattle industry has always had its good and bad times and always will, which will result in some having to leave. Many obstacles exist today: the high dollar, low prices, COOL, and high input costs. Do we as an industry need producers fighting among ourselves to determine who has the right to keep their herds? R-CALF would find this rather funny!

As a cattle producer, I will exit at my own choosing. At this point in time, even though my hair is grey, I’m not ready to be put out to pasture yet.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or e-mail: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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