Sunday, July 14, 2024
Chris Judd

Consumer concerns

For some 50 plus years I represented young farmers, and farmers of all ages from 4-H, english, french, dairy, beef, and general farm organizations. The first thing that I learned was that consumers are farmers best friends. North American farmers are only one per cent of the total population. Farmers have a very small percent of the political vote and without the support of our consumers, cheaper Chinese imports and unneeded subsidized surpluses from other countries could become the choice of many consumers. We must not just convince our consumers that Canadian food is the safest and best, but it must be the safest and best in the world. We must constantly inform our politicians that food security is not just needed, but a must for our consumers. Farming is no different than many other industries in North America. To survive, the farmer not only has to produce the safest, freshest, best tasting foods in the world, but must produce it very competitively. Today’s farms are not like grandpa’s where grandma milked half the herd (about 13 cows for her and 13 for grandpa) twice a day, 365 days a year. However, grandpa had a saying: “If you cannot drink the milk that you produce, you shouldn’t be allowed to sell or give it to anyone else.” That is still today’s motto on our farm for both milk and wine. Today, it’s not just a motto. There are rigorous standards, laws, and fines in place to assure consumers that everything that we sell is 100 per cent safe and tasty. Our neighbours (consumers) want to know why we do certain things and are concerned that we are good custodians of the soil and our animals. Our farmers’ associations encourage farmers to put on open house information days on the different types of farms in different areas every year to show and explain some of what we do. Local 4-H clubs encourage kids that are not raised on farms to join with them to learn everything from how to run a meeting to what to look for when judging calves, hay or potatoes, how to give a speech, how to work as a team, how to square dance, and how having fun is just as important as getting a good job. The children learn that completing a job right is more important than watching the clock, but there are time limits that have to be met. And no, you don’t have to have a calf or a horse or a bunny to be a 4-H member. Many farmers are honoured to be asked if they could lend you an animal to use as a 4-H project. If you watch TV like I do, you are constantly reminded about the high interest rates, high fuel prices, and high food prices. Your farmers are consumers too. Farmers like to eat too, and I still marvel at how my wife can put $100 worth of groceries in the cart. Before we start cropping in the spring (soon), the tractor will need a $500 oil change and $1,000 to fill the fuel tank, so yes the high oil price does bother me. For every million-dollar-mortgage on a farm, every time that the interest goes up 5 per cent, that means an extra $50,000 of interest on the debt. Some crop farms spend $1,000,000 planting their crop. The larger farms may carry a multi-million-dollar debt. Those same crop farmers do not know what price their grain will be next fall or spring. A lot of that depends on how good the crop will be in South America which sets the world price. How expensive the grain will be will set the price of eggs, poultry, pork, and beef. The price of fuel that is needed for transportation of grain, beef, pork, chicken and groceries will have a large impact on how big our grocery bill will be. Labour costs will have to increase to meet the cost of living, no matter where we work. Canadian dairy farmers are happy to market our milk through a supply managed system (like egg, and poultry farms) where the government, producers, processors, retailers, restaurants and consumer associations all scrutinize every cost, from labour to repairs to interest costs to energy costs to feed costs to rental costs, to everything that you can imagine. A year after those costs have been approved by everyone above, dairy farmers might receive a percentage of what is approved. Like an old farmer from Lachute once told me, “No matter what the government does to you, the best will survive.” It’s almost 20 years ago that I lay in hospital for a month after I had a stroke. After I thanked my doctors for saving my life, I realized that the most important thing that I could do to relieve stress was to “no longer worry about what I had no control over.” Sunday, Mar. 10, we attended the first of a two week “Saint Patrick” celebration with about 500 other folks from Ontario, Quebec and other parts of the world, and all denominations and languages were present. We realized that being together and enjoying each other’s music and culture is more important than many of the things that our government is trying to divide us with. Be mindful of each other’s needs. Our forefathers have come through much tougher times than these.

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

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