Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, April 30, 2010

Agricultural Self-Sufficiency

The Liberal Party of Canada is feverishly wracking its collective brain to storm one idea after another to gather the attention and enraptured respect of the voting public. One idea after another limps into public consciousness through news releases meant to intrigue the general public and to be debated by political pundits. One idea after another comes up badly wanting in intelligence of conception and practicality of pursuit.

A new policy - should the Liberals come to office with Michael Ignatieff ascending to the status of Right Honourable - to initiate funding of $80-million, presumably to start local crops rolling to market. "Healthy food" to be produced through locally-grown crops to be provided for a quarter-million low-income children. Another $50-million to increase food inspections, making certain that imported food products meet our stringent standards.

Government subsidies to farmers are already in existence. This is why Canadians, including low income families in particular, pay inordinately, exorbitantly high prices for dairy products. Making milk for growing young bones an expensive commodity. Lean white meat from poultry becomes exorbitantly priced as compared to elsewhere on the continent because of government 'support' to farmers. Put egg producers in there, too.

Canada's wheat boards ensure good pricing for grain growers; Canada grows some of the world's best hard-wheat grain. We live in a competitive world where countries raise tariffs on imported products that compete with home-grown producers as most countries make an effort to protect their food-producing industries. And that's all to the good, for the most part. If a country cannot adequately feed itself, it has lost its most important purpose.

Most Canadians would prefer to buy produce grown close to where they live. Stands to reason that fruits and vegetables grown in season that are local will be fresher. And sometimes less expensive, too, though not always. Reasonably, most people don't mind paying a little more to ensure that what they eat is fresh and reliably free from food pathogens and pesticide residues. Realistically, however, this is a northern climate, with a short growing season.

And Canada cannot grow crops that do well in southern climes, such as citrus fruits, bananas, pineapples, for example. And those fruits and vegetables that we do grow are strictly seasonal. Except for those grown in greenhouses, and we excel with those, too, but they are environmentally costly. We cannot grow everything that we like to have on the table for a well-balanced diet, in all seasons.

Our domestic egg, poultry and dairy marketing boards do a good enough job at keeping our farmers reasonably happy, and consumers complacent about having to pay more to ensure our agricultural industry is thriving. But we most certainly do not need to increase the extent of subsidies that currently exist, and we do not need to refuse to import food products from emerging economies that need our custom.

In short, we're doing all right, no need to tamper with things for the moment. Those Canadians, and there are many, who are interested in buying local and paying more for organically grown and produced food items have those options to please themselves and to assist local growers in developing their own local markets.

We're doing all right. We value our farmers, our growers, our food producers.

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