Saturday, August 2, 2008

Worst. Headline. Ever.

There's article today in the New Brunswick Times & Transcript talking about a Green Shift Road Show meeting between Liberal MPs and representatives of New Brunswick's agricultural community.

Here's how it went:

Yesterday's discussion was certainly lively, as the Liberals' plan was met with its share of criticism by the gathered agricultural community.

"What farmers are facing as a result of the Green Shift is a considerable increase in input costs, whether it's a result of fuel that farmers use or even as a result of how much their input costs may go up as a result of this carbon tax," says Bob Friesen, CFA president. "What we're basically saying is look, agriculture already provides a lot of carbon sequestration, farmers have done all kinds of things to create more carbon sinks... We're saying, look, there's got to be some calculations here that agriculture provides this -- they're the solution providers, so why tax them?"

Easter says a carbon tax exemption isn't likely to happen.

"I was on a series of meetings in the farm community last week and had farmers say to me if there's an exemption made for us we would be looked down on by the rest of society," Easter says. "Let's find the way of recognizing the cost impact on the farm community of this program and ensure that on the benefit impact at the end of the day there's economic opportunities for farmers and they receive their just due."

Easter says the platform will include other incentives for alternatives such as carbon sinks, biofuels, anaerobic digesters and wind power.

Despite his concerns, Friesen says he was still pleased the Liberal MPs came to speak with the industry.

"I think it was a positive thing that they came here and are prepared to listen to the farm leaders across Canada and they are prepared to go back and to analyze where they could improve (the plan) for agriculture," he says.

And here's the headline:

Agriculture industry opposes Green Shift

Groan. Honestly, did anyone even read the article before coming up with that one? Or maybe someone was just trying to put their own spin on things.

The effect of a carbon tax on farmers concerns me as well, but the fact is, modern agriculture just isn't as 'green' as people like to think. Large industrial farms go through a huge amount of oil and gas for both equipment and fertilizer, not to mention the negative environmental effects of excessive irrigation and pesticide use, soil depletion, etc., etc. Smaller farms are better, but are still frequently at the mercy of hybrid seed suppliers pushing sterile seeds that require massive amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides just to survive.

(Yes, I confess - I'm in the middle of reading "The End of Food". Shut up.)

But really, the industry needs to find a better way. It needs to go smaller, with more diversification. It needs to get off this obsession with "yield" and recognize the true costs of the Monsanto school of farming. The cost of carbon, the cost of fertilizer and pesticide, the cost to the land, and the cost to the actual nutritional value of these so-called "high yield" crops, which is making them bigger but almost completely devoid of nutrients.

Putting a price on carbon is a start, but there needs to be a far more comprehensive plan to transform agriculture in this country and wean it away from the current unsustainable system. Not necessarily promoting full-on "organic" farming per se, but certainly a program of incentives towards the more traditional family farm would be in order, and would ultimately be financially beneficial to the farmers themselves.

That would be a real "Green Shift".

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