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A Call to Action

Canada's Farmers in Crisis

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Consumers, including farmers are an endangered species as they eat polluted food and live in a polluted environment. Itâ??s time to take action! Consumers need to have all farmers produce organic food in a clean environment..

Consumers, including farmers are an endangered species as they eat polluted food and live in a polluted environment. It’s time to take action! Consumers need to have all farmers produce organic food in a clean environment.

The farming community is in crisis in more ways than one, especially in Saskatchewan. There are many small protest groups, crying for more tax dollars and government incentives, but these groups have failed to identify the problems of agriculture. They’re divided on the chemical issues. Historically, farm organizations have rapidly increased their membership in times of crisis. That will not happen this time.

The National Farmers Union (NFU), which can trace its roots back to the Territorial Grain Growers of 1901 (before Saskatchewan became a province), has not responded to this particular crisis as it has in the past. The NFU founding convention of 1969 brought together provincial farm organizations from across Canada except Quebec. I attended that founding convention in Winnipeg with 2,400 other delegates and visitors, of which 600 were from Saskatchewan. The NFU is the only direct dues paying farm policy organization in Canada that has a National Charter and Constitution. Back then, president elect Roy Atkinson told the convention they should be concerned about corporations taking over and controlling the family farm. However, the transitional drug and chemical companies were already well on their way to taking over the family farm by getting farmers hooked on using toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Pesticide Brainwashing

Pesticides and herbicides were originally developed in World Wars I and II as biological controls for warfare. Some smart entrepreneurs decided to see if they could apply them to peace time uses. They were extremely successful. Two generations of Canadians have grown up on chemical farms and chemical farming has become a part of our culture. Some farmers will go organic if they get sick while spraying, however, others continue to spray their crops by employing custom operators. Spraying season, which used to last for two weeks in June, now lasts for seven months, from the time the ground thaws out in spring until it freezes up in the fall.

Chemical companies spend millions of dollars on advertising to convince farmers to use chemicals and then add those advertising costs to the price of the pesticides. In effect, the farmer pays for his own brainwashing. The rest of society pays in terms of degenerative illnesses and soaring health costs.

Health costs in Saskatchewan were $2,000 per capita last year. Line ups at medical facilities are getting longer. We are in a health crisis. If we don’t clean up our environment and produce healthy, certified organic food, our national health care program will go bankrupt.

Organic Crops Save Costs

Agriculture chemicals are obsolete. They always were. Now, both weeds and pests have built up a resistance to most of them. This has led to increased volumes of chemicals being used at accelerated cost. Saskatoon lawyers report that farmers are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their chemical bills. On the other hand, the stories coming from across the American border report that the reason half of the American farmers that are going broke is because they can’t pay their medical bills! It’s two sides of the same coin.

Farmers here are divided over chemicals. The majority of them have such a chemical dependency that they will likely go broke before they switch to organic.

"Good, let them go broke," you say. However, that will not be a good solution for the consumer.

Farmers, as a result of the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act no longer have the right to save their own seed from year to year. If this situation continues, the corporations will take over the farms and consumers will have even more polluted, genetically modified and systematically chemicalized food at higher cost.

Federal and all provincial governments have policies to promote chemical agriculture only. (Saskatchewan, Canada’s bread basket, spent only 0.48 percent of its last year’s budget on organic agriculture.) Consumers, as taxpayers, are paying the huge cost for this government promotion of chemicals. Consumers, including farmers, must unite and press governments at all levels for a balanced agriculture, health and environmental policy or there will be no change.

But chemical farmers need support from consumers in order to make the transition to organic agriculture. The October 2000 edition of Organic Food Business News published in Florida, reports that the United States government is going to spend $10 million in 15 states to help farmers make the transition to organic agriculture. The funds will be limited to $50,000 per farm.

Closer to home, the May 2000 report of the Standing Committee on Environmental and Sustainable Development of the House of Commons entitled Pesticides,Making the Right Choices, recommends tax incentives for organic agriculture as well as an interim support program.

Consumers must take drastic, co-ordinated action to support the above policies.

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