By Brandy Harrison
KENILWORTH Watering field crops and even pastures may no longer be far-fetched in the wake of the 2012 drought, which turned 60-bushel soybeans into six-bushel soybeans, says the recently-re-elected president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO).
“Our farm and a couple of neighbours got an inch of rain on June 10 and no one else got it. We had a normal hay crop. My brother-in-law got nothing and had half a crop,” says sheep and rabbit farmer Lorne Small, who farms near Kenilworth, about 60 kilometres north of Kitchener. Small was acclaimed for his fourth term ahead of the Dec. 2 elections. The CFFO has 4,100 members.
Water stewardship, including capturing rainwater and spring runoff in retaining ponds for irrigation rather than dipping into aquifers, is one of two key priorities for the CFFO, says Small, stressing the need to supply the processing industry. “We cant say when we didnt get a crop, sorry, processors, your plant will have to sit empty this year.”
Farmland preservation is also on the CFFOs radar. Cities and towns are sprawling outwards, gobbling up farmland, and municipal plans must include dense housing, not only estate lots, says Small.
But ag policy is a tough sell in provincial politics these days.
Since the June election, which put few rural seats on the government side of the legislature, agriculture policy has had to keep a finger on the pulse of the general publics mood, says Small, who is also a father of eight. The Ontario Liberals won in only 5 of 37 rural ridings but won a landslide 53 urban ridings.
Agriculture program budgets are shrinking and farmers have to focus on what can benefit the greater society, Small says. The potential for climate shift, skyrocketing land prices, and the heated debate over neonicotinoid-treated seeds also puts pressure on farmers, he says.
While a great tool, neonic insecticides shouldnt be overused, and unintended environmental consequences cant be ignored, says Small. “Were supposed to be good stewards of all of Gods creation. Wed be upset if someone said lets ban them completely, but were not on the other extreme that theyre so safe we can spread them everywhere.”