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Wednesday, 08 May 2013 16:20

Walk a mile in their shoes/boots

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It’s become a right of passage for those who live on the prairies during the spring: complaining about farmers who complain.

Unlike many of us whose employment guarantees us income because of a combination of hard work, diligence, thoughtful planning or innovation, agriculture is one of those industries which has so many factors out of the producer’s control that it’s a wonder why anyone would want to put in the time and effort.
While the ridiculous adage of the “whining” farmer will come to the forefront again — as it always does during the spring — consider a few factors facing agricultural producers this year.
In Saskatchewan, there are those who are looking into their fields and don’t see much ground because it’s full of water. Abnormally high snowfall amounts — not only this winter, but last year — have farmers wondering if they’ll even bother trying to plant any sort of crop. It needs to be somewhat drier to get the land cultivated, let alone plant one.
There’s also talk of a diesel shortage due to the fact farmers are having to wait until the ground dries up. CBC reported diesel supplies may dry up in the coming weeks due to the fact there’s a maintenance shutdown at the Co-op refinery in Regina and with an “all-at-once” demand for fuel, it could get interesting.
Financial pressures on those so-called family farms is always high as agriculture is slowly turning into larger corporate operations, thus threatening the traditional smaller operations.
While commodity prices are generally solid, the ballooning input costs for fuel fertilizer and the price of feeding livestock generally cuts into those profits.
Of course there’s disease control to consider in both crops and livestock, both of which may prove to be for naught even with proper precaution planning as you just never no how Mother Nature reacts.
Plus, you have the scrutiny of the public and government for everything they do. Not to say that sometimes it’s not warranted, but what this industry is able to attract as far as this kind of attention, surpasses much of what the ordinary person says. Genetically-modified crops, water use and environmental considerations are all aspects farmers are monitored for and while it’s important, many of us aren’t judged for the work we do this closely.
Of course, there’s also the safety aspect of agriculture where producers have to be extra careful for their well-being as there are imminent dangers with equipment and unpredictable livestock.
While it’s not necessary for the public to be over-the-top with accolades for our farmer friends — they chose this profession and life — let’s stop, take a moment and be a little thankful we are able to produce food in our own backyard.
Without agriculture, a driver of the economy for many communities would be gone. Petroleum is big when it’s rolling, but it can quickly pick up and leave. Agriculture has always remained constant in southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan.
Yes, there are difficult people in every walk of life and individual criticisms are warranted. No industry should not be without some sort of scrutiny, but it’s unnecessary to take unwarranted potshots with blanket attitudes and the use of tired clichés for an industry putting food on your table.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post.
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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor