Saturday, July 15, 2006

Farms face 'economic euthanasia'

Having grown up on the Alberta prairies, I carry a somewhat heavy heart when I consider the death of farming in Canada. Economist Todd Hirsch says, "Sometimes, economic euthanasia really is the best and kindest policy." Here is an excerpt of his article printed in today's Toronto Star:

Prior to the Great Depression, Saskatchewan was the third most populous province. Today, with a population teetering around 1 million, it is sixth. All it would take is another museum of Highland dancing and Sunday shopping in Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan would fall to number seven.
There is a list of reasons for the decline of traditional dryland agriculture on the Canadian prairies. A long downward trend in grain prices, an equally long upward trend in input prices, and generally lousy growing conditions have made the traditional family farm a decidedly losing proposition. Global commodity prices are falling because of the vastly increased grain output in places like Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Ukraine. Once these countries caught up with modern machinery and more productive farming techniques, Canada started getting its agricultural butt kicked. Face it — we are halfway to the North Pole and can't compete with the South American sunshine. On top of it all, outrageous farm subsidies in the U.S. and protectionist policies in Europe have ensured that the world is awash in low-price grain. Unfortunately, the agricultural vote in all three Prairie provinces punches far above its weight.
Rural areas in all three provinces are more heavily represented in the legislatures than are the urban ridings. This has made for strong and predictable political support for agriculture. But the phrase "support for agriculture" is really code for "gobs of taxpayer money." Federal and provincial agricultural policy has been largely that: relief money for drought, relief money for floods, and a series of cash bailout programs often for no good reason at all. (And this is setting aside for consideration elsewhere the mess our supply-managed agricultural sectors are in.)

The entire article can be found here.

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