Bad arguments about farming

It’s too beautiful a day here to be indoors typing (and indeed I haven’t been — I’ve taken down a fence and painted some of a porch and I’m glad of both — but I’ll raise Tom Axworthy’s piece on Canada’s food policy in the Toronto Star

We have not had a national policy to help the family farm since Eugene Whelan was minister of agriculture in the 1970s. Ever since, we have had a policy of industrial farming, consolidation, agribusiness and globalization. But this policy rests on the fatal flaw of cheap energy. That era is over. We must return to a policy of local food through the family farm…

With farmers squeezed by low prices and high costs, half of the farm families had one or both partners working off the farm to make ends meet, though farming is more than a full-time job. As a result, farmers are leaving their profession in droves: in 1991 there were 390,000 Canadians in farming but by 2006 there were only 327,000. In 1991, there were 78,000 young farmers taking over from their parents, in 2006 only 30,000. If the trend continues, who will be left to grow the food?

We need a national food policy that relies on the family farm to produce local supplies.

… just long enough to point out the built-in assumption that Canada requires a federal policy on where food comes from. Whatever we decide we want, government must act to get us there.

Note, also, two sleights-of-hand:

  1. Only two alternatives are offered: large industrial farms run by corporations, and small locally oriented farms run by families. Supporting a family farm is not necessarily the same as supporting a small farm. Family-run businesses come with all kinds of challenges that public policy is not necessarily well suited to manage.
  2. The absurd idea that because fewer people are growing food now than used to, the logical endpoint of this is that someday nobody will grow food, whereupon we all presumably starve.

Same-old-same-old prairie-leftie arguments, cloaked in environmentalism. Bleah.

Now, back outdoors.

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