Sunday, May 19, 2024
Chris Judd

All our politicians: 2022

One of the seven bank accounts of a farmer is to keep our politicians informed.
At several agricultual conferences, farm meetings and presentations warning us of dangerous changes in climate, past, present and future — soil degradation, absence of planning before allowing agricultural land to be used for other than farming has been the number one problem.
Many people say, “Why should we do anything if the world’s largest culprits do nothing?” Being from a generation of farmers who have been farming for 10 generations plus, I am concerned about the future for the next generations of farmers who are expected to feed our world. I may be selfish, but I am most concerned about our own Canadian farmers even if the other countries are a bit reluctant to invest in soil preservation. Let’s keep our Canadian farmers a step ahead of the rest in being able to supply safe, affordable, nutritious feed for Canadians.
Even in 1984, soil degradation was costing our Canadian farmers one billion dollars per year. Only four and a half per cent of the land in Canada was suitable for cultivation. An equal amount had been tillable but was already used for roads, ditches, power corridors had been flooded by dams on rivers to ensure adequate electric power, used as airports like the Mirabel Airport project where 79,000 acres of prime farmland was expropriated, used for cities, parking lots, golf courses, soil contamination by fallout from industrial smokestacks, use of sewage sludge that contained heavy metals like zinc, cadmium, nickel, mercury, etc. Pipeline corridors, oil wells, gravel pits and quarries also have removed some excellent farmland from agriculture.
The largest threat to some of Canada’s best farmland and is expansion for housing, towns and cities.
I can still recall Sen. Herb Sparrow speaking at a local meeting, telling us that from the top of the C.N. Tower, which was then just constructed, on a clear day you could see one half of the class one farmland in Canada and almost half of that was already under buildings, roads and parking lots. Ever try to grow a garden on a cemented parking lot? That and much more class one farmland can never be reclaimed for farmland.
When our country first began trade with the First Nation people, the trading posts were situated on a river, lake or ocean where our First Nations people could transport their furs by canoe. Many of these trading posts like Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, etc. that are built on our best land, continue to expand on prime agricultural lands. While within a few hour’s drive from cities like Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, etc. are some of the most desirable places to fish, ski, hike, hunt and live. Why are those places that are useless for crop production not promoted as ideal locations for our population?
Warming of our climate is slowly but surely turning our most productive farmland into a desert. Continuous cropping has and will continue to reduce organic matter and deplete microscopic life in the soil that can regenerate our soils. Universities and agriculture colleges have proven that mixed farming that grows grass and legumes as well as grain crops in rotation can regenerate soils and reduce or eliminate productivity loss of our soils, while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and sprays. Some of the companies that sell expensive seed, herbicides, and insecticides will try to convince you otherwise.
Louis Broomfield, a small gentleman farmer in the northeast United States, showed the world that alfalfa could be grown almost anywhere by buying and transporting boxcar loads of soil from an alfalfa field in Oregon to be spread in a field in Ohio. Louis didn’t know what was in that Oregon soil but when spread on the field in Ohio alfalfa grew just great. The local university became involved and soon discovered nitrogen fixing bacteria in that Oregon soil that lived in alfalfa roots and produced their own nitrogen from the air. Soon these nitrogen fixing bacteria were grown and sold to farmers to mix in and inoculate the alfalfa seed at planting. Louis also proved that grass was the great healer to a soil that was depleted to the point of being non-productive and after a few years of using grass and pasture, the field could once again be used for a cash crop.
An old friend of mine, Jacques Laforge, who was the president of Dairy Farmers of Canada and later the chairman of the Canadian Dairy Commission once was asked by tourists in New Brunswick, “Why is the river chocolate coloured?” Jacques replied, “What you are seeing is the next 30 to 40 years of their food supply passing in front of them.” That was topsoil that washed by water erosion from a potato field into the river after a heavy rain.
Remember that our soil is the most important bank account we have. Money is the least important bank account. If we don’t look after the first one the money account will eventually cease to exist.
Copies of the book “Soil At Risk” should be available from the Senate of Canada.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.

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