Erin Gowirluk, Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada
HAVE YOU HEARD the story of the poor, old farmer who lost his horse? All his neighbours came to him and said, “Well, that’s too bad.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” The next day, the horse returned, bringing another horse with him. The neighbours proclaimed, “What good fortune!” to which the farmer replied, “We’ll see.” The next day, while taming the horse, the farmer’s son fell and broke his back. Again, the neighbours came to the farmer and said, “Well, that’s too bad,” and again, the farmer replied, “We’ll see.” Shortly thereafter, a conscription officer came to collect all the able-bodied young men in the area but rejected the farmer’s son due to his injury. Again, the neighbours came to the farmer and said, “What good fortune!” and again, the farmer said, “We’ll see….”
Often, the narrative we create for ourselves shapes reality. If we follow the parable, we find that “good” outcomes depend on our outlook. It’s very easy to define things as “good” or “bad,” but what if, when we encounter a conflict, we embrace a “we’ll see” approach before we predefine the outcome? Take Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) fertilizer targets, for example. In 2020, AAFC announced its goal to reduce fertilizer emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The announcement and its subsequent rollout seemed uninformed and lacked the necessary details to ease farmers’ concerns. On its face, it was a lousy outcome for all involved.
As farmers voiced their frustrations in the months following the announcement, Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) has also seen increased willingness on the part of the government to work together with farmers to develop sustainability solutions that support agriculture. In December 2022, GGC was pleased to be invited to join AAFC’s Sustainable Agriculture Strategy advisor panel. The panel’s creation marks what we hope to be a long-term strategic approach that leverages the work farmers are already doing. The panel also presents an opportunity. For decades, farmers across the country have led the way in innovation and sustainability. Farmers must be included in conversations about future developments. We cannot risk having an approach dictated to us. We also know we have a pivotal role to play, which is why GGC has not waited for government consultations. Instead, over the last year, we have worked with farmers, experts, academics, and industry partners to develop the Road to 2050, a practical and proactive set of recommendations to achieve Canada’s net-zero goals.
Rather than having a negative outcome thrust upon us, we’re paving a path to a more productive and sustainable future. Looking to 2050, experts expect food production will have to increase by 26 percent to keep pace with population growth. We already face extreme pressures with our food supply, so the simple truth is that sustainability and productivity must be linked; we cannot have one without the other.
Road to 2050, which will be released in late March 2023, is a framework for government that reflects the needs and goals of Canadian grain farmers. Farmers have long demonstrated they are part of the solution and that is why we are coming to the table ready to take on this challenge. We will advocate for farmers every step of the way.