Happy Independence Day to my US friends, who’ll be toasting their country today in homegrown spirit with some locally grown and produced beverages. I’m looking forward to introducing (or re-introducing) them to Canadian beer, wine and liquor when they visit Guelph and Niagara Falls for the 2011 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress in September. Some of their tours will take them through Ontario’s wine regions, which are the beneficiaries of a new $12 million provincial program focussed on helping producers transition to high-quality grapes.

When the program was announced last week, Kim Craitor, MPP for Niagara Falls, said the province was “helping our local growers produce the quality wines the consumer wants.”

And so it is with farmers of all crops. Wherever consumers live — Canada, the US, Europe or elsewhere — they won’t have access to be a good local, regional or national food supply if farmers can’t make a living. From time to time, that’s bound to include help from governments.

I write about that perspective in my Urban Cowboy column in today’s Guelph Mercury.