Category: Observer

I hear the train a-comin’ – from Mexico

Rail transport of freight has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and it looks like Canadian Pacific Railway Is about to ride that trend further. The company is about to become is the first rail network to link Canada, U.S. and Mexico, which has huge implications for agriculture in all three countries. Photo:

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Farming needs to be understood, then celebrated

March is Agricultural Literacy Month. What does that mean? Thanks to government-funded programs, the agencies that deliver them and some benevolent donors, students are learning the facts about agriculture in Canada. If tomorrow’s consumers are discerning and well informed, that’s something to celebrate. Photo: Agscape.

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Consumers acceptance will determine genetically altered livestock uptake

A tug-of-war is underway in the U.S. right now between two federal departments about who will have the oversight of genetically modified plants and animals. Currently it’s the Food and Drug Administration, but the U. S Department of Agriculture believes it should be at the fore, as do most farmers. No matter which agency prevails, it will be the consumer who has the final say in this controversial market. Photo:

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Farming is being treated like a carbon liability

Farmers feel the current federal carbon tax targets them unfairly. The carbon-based fertilizer and fuel they use are necessary to grow food. And it’s true that they’re not being compensated for measures like rotational grazing that actually sequester carbon in the soil. The public wants something done about climate change…so where’s the middle ground? Photo:

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Farmers need mental health services just for them

Farmers face a unique set of challenges every day – challenges over which they have little to no control. Weather, disease, commodity prices, the list goes on. Who better to receive targeted mental health programs than those who may need it most, but are least likely to ask. It’s long overdue and we owe them our support.

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Human welfare is the star of food production

We’ve gained a new appreciation for the role of food workers during this pandemic, especially in farm and food processing jobs. Their essential positions are filled mostly by offshore workers and new Canadians, and their plight has become a human welfare issue, not just here but in agriculture abroad. Photo:

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New battle emerges against GMO crops

Mexico has decided to ban GMO corn by 2024 and halt the use of the herbicide glyphosate, which gained notoriety as RoundUp. Some farmers there fear production yields will drop, and that they’ll be challenged to find enough corn to stay competitive in the beef export market. And how about impact on corn exporters, like the US? The ripple effect of decisions like this one is huge. Photo:

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Should temporary migrant workers become permanent citizens?

The 2020 pandemic showed us the critical role of temporary foreign workers in producing Canadian foods, especially our fruits, vegetables and meats. Because we’re so dependent on them to do the work that others won’t, shouldn’t we find a way to offer them a path to more permanent arrangements? Two Canadian senators are trying hard to make that a real possibility.

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Farmland needs to be preserved, not developed

Ontario Premier Doug Ford seems to have done an about-face on agriculture recently with his attempts to limit conservation authorities’ control of the lands within their regions, including the Greenbelt. The provincial government’s focus should be on developing up, not out. Ontario needs that quality farmland to feed the province’s growing population.Image:

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Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Headshot of Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts is a faculty member in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications program at the University of Illinois. As an agricultural journalist, he is the past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and a lifetime achievement award recipient from the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation.

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