Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Chris Judd

Shortsighted

How far ahead can you see? About 20 years ago, friends that were planning a trip to Disneyland with their kids asked our daughter if she wanted to come with them and help with their kids who were a few years younger than our daughter. This was a no-brainer for everyone. During their car ride to Florida over the next couple days, everyone watched the big road signs that hung over the interstate highways to inform them where to turn off and “are we there yet?” It soon became clear that our daughter couldn’t read the big road signs until they were almost right above her. This explained why she sometimes mentioned that she had trouble in school reading what was written on the blackboard. Keena was shortsighted. The week they all returned from the Disneyland trip, and a trip to the optometrist, Keena had glasses and her grades at school improved greatly.
Before avid hunters go to the bush, they always sight in their gun to a distance that they expect most of their “game” will be within easy shooting distance. When our pioneer ancestors planned their move to Canada a couple hundred years ago, they had some long-term plans for themselves and their family’s future for generations to come. They knew that a long dangerous sea voyage was ahead of them, followed by years of very hard work and hardship would await them before they would experience any degree of a comfortable life. No short sight there, just a long-term plan that could be changed as needed. They very soon realized that many jobs for pioneers required much more manpower than just the wife and a couple kids could accomplish. Neighbours and community became an indispensable part of their future survival and success. Pioneers appreciated what God had provided and the rest depended upon a lot of hard work and a community that worked together.
While they depended on fish and wild game that were here long before they were, early medicine provided by First Nations people who had survived here for centuries before the white man arrived, and the first meager crops that grew in that hard ground that the neighbours helped clear, they knew that it took more than a “big bang” to get this all started. The spiritual leader was whoever arrived on horseback and understood the basics of how this world got this far. Pioneers shied away from religions that fought with one another. They chose the most patient and smart person to help teach their kids and held that person in very high esteem. They carefully chose someone who had already proven themselves as being successful and had a lot of foresight to be a community leader or early politician. Some of our wannabe politicians today promise “we can do better” but don’t say how. Too many are more concerned about getting elected on promises for today than they are about what kind of a world our grandchildren will have to try to correct.
More than a half century ago, when I was lucky enough to attend college, the college economist emphasized the use of long-term economics and a partial budget before any investment was undertaken. That same economist was on call to advise the federal government. Today, it seems like too many economists are what I call short-term economists who emphasize today’s purchases without any thought about how those ideas will affect tomorrow’s prices. If we bought only the cheapest foods available today, many of which were dumped on the market, there would be very little produced domestically, and the price of that product would soon be very high, until local producers again filled the market, which might be a decade away. Twenty years ago, there was a famine in part of Africa and some countries sent loads of free grain to help feed their people. Their local farmers, who were struggling to make ends meet, had very poor crops and needed a higher price to survive, went broke because of all the free grain. If countries wanted to help, they should have sent some free grain, some money to help the local farmers stay in business, and some engineers to show them how to conserve water in small dams and use it to irrigate in dry times.
About a decade ago we visited Ireland whose government had just announced the end of a milk quota system of marketing milk there. All the dairy farmers I visited then were really happy. They planned that their sons would come home to farm, they would double their dairy herds and make more money. Well, all that happened, the milk price dropped below the cost of production, half the dairy farmers went broke, the price of milk in the stores went down about 15 per cent for a few months, farm suicide tripled, then the chain stores brought the store price of milk up to a level higher than it was before elimination of milk quotas, and the store took control of the milk prices. Both the consumers and the farmers lost.
Canada remains the only country in the world where the consumer association, the retailers, the processors, and the government all have a chance to approve or disapprove any increase or decrease in milk prices based on all expenses at the farm. Some Canadian dairy farmers have already engaged in a program to monitor their carbon emissions and capture on their farms, and Dairy Farmers of Canada have promised that their dairy farmers would become carbon neutral by 2050. The farms that are signed up already can compare their progress with other dairy farms across the country. I wonder how the other Canadian industries are doing? Let’s not let our country become “shortsighted.”

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

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