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Lunar eclipses, voodoo — and doughnuts

The mythology around lunar eclipses — especially “blood moons” like the one we witnessed early April 14 — is that they foretell of significant events, ranging from doomsday scenarios to the second coming.

Without any pretence of superstition, we couldn’t help but note this in the context of our story this week about three major farm organizations in Western Canada actually agreeing on something significant.

Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and the National Farmers Union are now all on the books as supporting the imposition of open running rights on Canada’s railroads.

Did you feel the earth move, see the stars align or witness a herd of cats going by?

Now don’t read too much into this. It’s not like they got together in the same room, had a discussion and came to a common conclusion. In fact, we suspect that when word of this gets out, these same organizations will expend energy and ink trying to explain why their support of running rights is different from the other groups’ support, why their position is better, who supported it first, and so on.

But the fact that they have all independently come to a similar conclusion speaks volumes about the growing realization among Prairie farmers that, thanks to federal actions of late, they have been left with few tools with which to hold the railways and grain handlers accountable.

Running rights, which would effectively turn the rail lines into highways usable by competing rail companies, would be difficult to implement and would no doubt be ferociously opposed by CN and CP. But they are the one true means of bringing competition back to commodity shipping in Canada.

CN’s Claude Mongeau has been saying lately that even increased interswitching provisions proposed in the federal government’s legislation to get the grain moving would lead to “poaching” of the railway’s business. We can also expect them to argue that it would lead to inefficiencies.

We wouldn’t be the first to point out that’s what competition is all about. It’s no different than having two gas stations or two grocery stores in the same town. In the grand scheme of things, having one of each is not more “efficient,” but having two is better for the customers.

CN or CP wouldn’t have to lose business to “poachers,” but they might have to work harder to keep it. Chances are they would, and that can only be good for shippers.

However, if farmers and the organizations are going to get some momentum behind this idea, they can’t afford to waste any time and/or resources highlighting how they differ.

With that in mind, we suggest they hold a meeting — a summit if you like — to which they bring doughnuts or any other sort of high-carb, high-sugar confectionery that strikes their fancy.

The high-sugar component is important. Now some would have us believe sugar is the new toxin. The latest World Health Organization advice is that the average person should only be getting about six teaspoons per day — about as much as you’d find in half a cup of yogurt.

But new research released last week suggests achieving that goal would only result in more crabby people and higher rates of divorce. Researchers with Ohio State University tracked blood glucose levels in married couples and were able to accurately correlate low blood sugar with the level of marital discord.

They’ve even coined the word “hangry” from “hungry” and “angry” to describe the phenomenon. They figured this out by giving study participants voodoo dolls representing their spouse, and 51 pins.

For 21 days each participant inserted pins according to how angry they were with their spouse. They also tracked their blood glucose levels. The lower their blood glucose, the more pins they stuck in their voodoo doll.

Researchers then conducted an experiment in which spouses were told they were competing against their spouse to see who could press a button faster when a target square turned red on the computer. The winner got to blast the other in another room with loud unpleasant noises. In reality they were playing a computer that let them win half the time. People with lower glucose sent louder and longer blasts to their “spouse.”

It’s been our observation that there has been a lot of “hangry” people hanging around farm policy meetings of late, perhaps related to efforts on the part of organizers to offer only “healthy” alternatives before the meeting or at coffee time.

So here’s the plan. Just before Oct. 8, the next of three lunar eclipses over the next 18 months, give every farm leader in Western Canada a voodoo doll, tell them it represents CN or CP and make them skip breakfast.

Then bring them together and break out the doughnuts. You never know — a united front might emerge.

About the author

Vice-President of Content

Laura Rance

Laura Rance is vice-president of content for Glacier FarmMedia. She can be reached at [email protected]

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