Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Henry Stevens, CFFO Director
Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal is to be commended for intervening in the questionable attempt by the Farm Products Marketing Commission (FPMC) to change Regulation 440. These changes would have stripped the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) of their negotiating powers with their processors. The processing vegetable sector could have been decimated as a result. We only need to look at how Loblaws and Sobeys arbitrarily cut the prices they pay to their suppliers.
The question remains, “what was behind the FPMC’s attempt to strip the OPVG of their bargaining powers?” I believe that if successful, this move would have led to an assault on all marketing boards going forward. So was this attempt driven by someone’s ideology, or was there “another factor” driving it? It was probably both.
The “other factor” is globalization. The driving forces behind our international trade deals are the huge multinational corporations. Our governments have meekly given up our sovereign authority to these corporations under the pretense of growing the market place to benefit their citizens. However, the opposite has happened. The divide between the haves and the have nots has grown much wider. Corruption in government and business is rampant in many jurisdictions and accountability has all but disappeared.
The so-called elite have developed a sense of entitlement. The down trodden are getting fed up with being told what they can and cannot do. The inevitable results have been clearly demonstrated through the Brexit vote in Great Britain and rise of Donald Trump in the United States. And yet the elites do not get it. I was shocked a couple of weeks ago during a conversation at a bed and breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake with an American guest who worked for a pharmaceutical company. He was upset that the vote of a poor person who whitened their teeth with Javex because they could not afford toothpaste, was worth just as much as his own vote. That spoke volumes.
Agriculture is not immune from this trend towards elitism. We see it in huge farm sizes. We see it in farmers hogging the roads with their huge equipment because they have to travel farther from home. We see it in neighbours outbidding another farmer who has farmed a piece of land for years. As a result of all this we also see much more stress on farmers and their families. Neighbours don’t know each other anymore.
Instead of focusing on unsustainable growth, I believe we need to focus on “degrowth,” where many more families can have ownership, responsibility, pride and a sense of self-worth. Only then will we create the triple bottom line –economic, social and environmental sustainability – that we say we desire.