If there is a one constant as a farmer it’s watching the weather. I can ask almost any of my colleagues at almost anytime in the year what the weather’s going to do and they will know. It’s this way because we are so weather dependent, but it’s also this way because with the advent of the Internet and computers weather has got so much more predictable. It’s extremely convenient to access good weather information.
Here at DTN we have my esteemed colleague Bryce Anderson analyzing and writing about the weather all the time. It is interesting. When I first joined DTN 25 years ago I didn’t believe in long-term weather forecasts. The long-term weather forecast for me at that time was about two days. However, I changed thru the years to give much more credence to long-term weather forecasting and I must say much of this is because I’ve read lots of Bryce Anderson’s work. I’ve also got to speak to him on more than one occasion and even got to share a speaking stage with him at one-point years ago in St. Hyacinth Québec.
It is what it is. I’m old enough to remember years ago when listening to the radio to get the weather forecast or reading a daily newspaper to find out what the weather might do. Needless to say, we got caught all the time with unexpected weather we could never see coming. Fast forward to the Internet and to computers and in 2019 we have magnificent weather information at our fingertips.
One such tool that is used to check the weather on Canadian farms is the Weather Network. There is a version of this in the United States, but there’s also a version of it in Canada. For instance, on my digital cable package on my home farm, I receive the weather network as part of the basic coverage. Over and over again each day they tell me what the weather is supposed to do. Living close to Detroit, our benchmark has always been what happens in Detroit happens here forty minutes later. So the weather network was slow to catch on in my neighborhood. Needless to say, with the advent of smart phones and the weather network app, it’s become ubiquitous for many farmers through Canadian farm country.
With this is a backdrop; I was quite surprised with the firestorm caused last week when the Weather Network tweeted out “If you really want to help save the planet you could seriously consider limiting the amount of beef you eat.” I was one of the early ones that saw the tweet and knew the weather network was in trouble. The tweet had embedded video in it, which explained how cattle production was hurting the planet. I tweeted back Canadian beef producers deserved better and the Weather Network should stick to predicting the weather. Need is to say, the social media storm erupted after that and many farmers deleted the weather network app from their smart phone or digital device. Simply put, farmers want the weather and they don’t want their industry denigrated in some type of social commentary from the weather network.
It didn’t end there. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association chimed in and in what they called a friendly first discussion with the Weather Network last Monday defending the industry. After that discussion, the Weather Network put together a partial mea culpa. They issued a statement, which said “We will not actively advise people on their food consumption choices. The purpose of the article was to focus on sustainability and upon further review we determine the post did not reflect our intention” I guess you could say lesson learned. Don’t attack your customers. Stay in your lane and try to get the weather right.
I am never one to believe there’s any sinister motive when things like this happen. To me, somebody made a small mistake, which grew bigger as the day went on. I think it was right for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to question them and to be upset about it. It will help for next time if any other weather company sends out the same thing. Simply put, companies have to be sensitive to what they’re posting online. Mistakes happen and that’s certainly did last week.
The other part of the equation for those of us on the farm is we need to be sensitive to some of these climate change arguments. That doesn’t mean we need to accept everything the carbon tax being one example. It simply means that much of society is trying to sound their alarm on climate. Agriculture can do its part, despite the fact and many in society do not recognize carbon sequestration as part of the solution.
What probably doesn’t work is deleting the Weather Network app. It might make us momentarily feel good and it did get some attention. However, cooler heads are prevailing. What we need from our weather people is weather intelligence, powerfully packaged to help us manage our risk. Leave the social commentary to somebody else.