House of Commons Standing Committee
on Agriculture & Food Swift Current

February 19, 2002.
Presentation by Edwin Wallace
Chairman, Empress Line Producer Car Shipper's Association.
Good Evening.

I first contemplated dragging a kitchen sink along with me tonight to demonstrate the all inclusive nature of the topic: The Future Role of the Federal Government in Agriculture.

On further consideration, however, I agree with the choice.

This is your opportunity, to hear from people like myself, who have never been part of a delegation to Ottawa, who have seldom if ever been consulted directly for a view on any specific program or policy, who only read and hear what others have to say, and finally, resign ourselves to wait for what might come down the pipe.

This evening I present to you reasons, I believe, justify the maintenance of farmers on their farms. I will end with an appeal for your fair and thoughtful consideration of a very important issue before us now; a New Safety Net.

"Agriculture" has come to mean everything that costs farmers money. Evidence around us shows that "Agriculture", which includes, for example, banks, chemical companies, manufacturers, food processors and railways, making far more money from our efforts and produce than we do farming.

This evening I seek an enhancement in the public's regard for my farm. By this, I mean; to change the context in which farms and farmers are viewed by the general public and you politicians.

I choose, therefore, to make my little part here tonight, NOT about "Agriculture" as such, but rather, about the positive attributes of Farms and Living-on-the-Farm, farmers.
A farm has its own Infrastructure. On our farm, and replicated on thousands of farms just like it across the prairies, each of us has a self sufficient, complete, micro infrastructure! Of course there is the power grid, gas distribution to some, and telephone service, but they only serve to make our important, life supporting, private, infrastructures, work.

A farmer is a participant in a unique way of life. The successful farm demands self sufficiency, ingenuity; and a desire on the part of the farmer to make life fulfilling and comfortable. This is manifested, in a large part, by the application of the varied components of a private infrastructure.

A farm is a business. Not even considering the matter of production on the farm; there is that standby power plant, that sewerage system, that water supply, etc.; a self contained, privately paid for infrastructure that requires maintenance and upkeep - I repeat - paid for by the farmer.

A farmer makes few demands on a community.
  • We go to town for the mail.

  • We acknowledge that critical Police, Fire and Health protection is not instantly possible.

  • We accept that unplanned-power-outages are guaranteed.

  • The vital claims we make on our community are tax based.

  • Most of us pay our taxes on time.

  • We do not expect art galleries, sound stages, theatres or other cultural expenditures to be undertaken in our midst.

  • We accept the great expense of much travel to enjoy art and entertainment; near and far.

  • We provide employment opportunities in our communities.

  • We keep local businesses alive.
Non Farming Canadians and our governments, I believe, often view farmers as too expensive to serve. I maintain this is not so. I would argue that all of us will be better off if we maintain farmers on their farms with their own little private infrastructures.
The main topic at a recent Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention was the need for more money, through revenue sharing, with senior governments. What would be their demands for new urban infrastructure if many of our farmers were displaced to the city; or, is that the reason the urbans feel hard pressed even now?
So, my argument is this:

Canada, benefits because of the few demands made by its farmers.

But, due to the volatility of world and domestic markets, international agreements and vagaries of the weather, a comprehensive SAFETY NET is required.
A new safety net must be meaningful for farmers as well as the general public. In other word, it must be up to the task of preserving the concept of self sufficient farming. Recognising that, I suggest an enhancment be built into any new Safety Net for living-on-the-farm farmers.
A new Safety Net, must be fairly administered; be transparent in its application and understandable enough in its intent and purpose to be acceptable by most Canadians.
I ask then that you go from here tonight with this general thought in mind:

A meaningful Safety Net for farmers is of great economic importance to non-farming Canadians.

Edwin Wallace