Agriculture needs regulation – Editorial

n the run-up to the Canadian Wheat Board elections taking place in the next few weeks, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has just released the results of a survey on the services provided by the CWB to grain farmers.

Drafted in language clearly smelling bias against the CWB, the results show, according to CFIB analysts, that the farmers are not happy with the services they receive from the national grain marketing organization at all.

Just to give an example, the press release says while 20-30 per cent of the farmers describe the functioning of staff at the CWB poor, “only half of the respondents find them acceptable.”

It is no secret that such survey questions and the answers to them can be twisted and turned in many ways if the goal is produce an originally intended outcome from the questionnaires.

The point is CWB is such a useful organization that no one really wants to get rid of it, but everybody loves to hate it.

Having spoken to a significant number of farmers in various interviews over several months, I have not heard a single farmer who said he did not benefit from the services provided by the CWB, but at the same time I haven’t heard a single individual who praised the organization for what it does.

That is probably a clear definition of the phrase “taking something for granted.”

Similarly, the recently re-instituted non-refundable $1 check-off in cattle trade has created a stir among some sections of the provincial beef industry.

But the very organizations that came out against the decision still benefit from the research and marketing efforts undertaken at national and international levels thanks to those checkoff dollars.

It is a given that most, if not all, farmers want as little government and intervention as possible in running their operations.

But a retired farmer recently said agriculture was getting to be a much tougher business than his days at the helm of the business.

Interviewed on the occasion of the centennial of the farm his father had established, the farmer said those who are running farms these days faced much stiffer competition that he had ever experienced.

That sounds like the voice of wisdom.

As the market where we can sell our products gets bigger and bigger, the competition to have access and hold on to those markets gets tougher.

Regardless of the size of the herd or of the acreage seeded, competing in international markets is no longer a challenge that can be met by individual farmer. It has to be a group effort, and whenever there is group effort, there has to be regulation.

The conservative fans of “as little government as possible” principle may continue their stone throwing against such regulation and the organizations that apply or enforce them, but the reality will sooner or later prove that those organizations are a fact of life.

— Mustafa Eric

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