Attacking Hunger At Christmas Time: Canadian Farmers Do Their Part

Ok guys, its time to get those last minute Christmas presents.  Yes, I know.  It’s been an extremely drawn out fall with ruts and mud to show for it.  Winter is finally here.  It’s almost time to turn the page.

So how about those acres for next year?  I’ve been telling you for months now the market needs to get at least 5 million more corn acres for next year.  Informa economics has come out and said corn acres next year will jump a whapping 9.4% up to 85.922 million acres. Soybean acres are set to be reduced 5.131 million acres at 70.434 million acres.  Multiplying trend line yields for corn (152bu/acre) and we may get a whapping crop next year at 13.06 billion bushel corn crop.  Wow!

That’s a lot of corn.  Get used to that in 2007.  It won’t be your father’s market.  However, let’s leave that for a while.  It’s Christmas time under the Agridome.  Isn’t it about peace on earth good will to men?  Hmmmmm, or is it in December 2006 more about the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo WII?

No it isn’t, but I admit sometimes I think it is.  I don’t get it.  I went into a “games stores” the other day having been asked to get something.  It was like I arrived on the planet Jupiter and asked for some green cheese.  The natives said something to me.  I left the jam-packed store.  Couldn’t understand them.

It left me thinking about doing something tangible for Christmas.  However, I am who I am.  For the moment as we lead up to Christmas 2006 I’m helpless.  The best I can do is remember back to a good thing, which happened leading up to last Christmas.

On December 14th of last year your loyal scribe started a very old tractor on a frosty cold day.  I made my way down to the old Zellers parking lot to take part in the Wallaceburg Farm Rally.  I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I had been asked to MC and speak that day.  I’d never done anything like that before.  At the end of the day, it had all worked out.  Local farmers made their point, fighting back against a government, which they deemed very unfair.

However, much, much more came out of that day.  Forget the successes and failures, which came out of that day.  The Wallaceburg Farm Rally DVD, which I produced and distributed with the help of other local farmers and farm suppliers, raised $600 for the local Food Bank.  Farmers by default produce food yes.  However, this time their efforts attacked local hunger in a tangible manner.  Local families received food like Kraft dinner, dry cereal, soup, juice boxes and other items like laundry soap and toilet paper. Something very good had happened.

The question is how about his year?  There is no 2006 version of the Wallaceburg Farm Rally DVD.  However, there still are hungry people.  That $600 has to be made up somewhere.  Or does it?

I suppose in many ways you cannot pick and choose your efforts of good will.  Some people are just good at it and some are not.  People are still hungry and at Christmas time in this land that should trouble us.  Canadian farmers are once again awash in food.  Local people are hungry.  The system stinks.

Yes, maybe that puts my head squarely in the sand.  No excuses.  However, hunger has always bothered me.  At one point in my life all hunger represented to me was the down time between bites.  That all changed when I saw the hungry souls masquerading as human beings on my sojourns to South Asia.  Seeing the seething emotions of people starving in front of you combined with their anguished soft touch changed me forever.  I never forgot it.

That’s one reason I have such a hard time with the agricultural economics of our time.  As many of you know, it’s my job to decipher the movement of agricultural capital that is buffeted by the inherent laws and levers of agricultural economics.  Big agricultural multinationals get richer and richer.  Farmers are at the bottom managing the scarce dollars left over.  And at the end of the day many Canadians even in our local municipality are hungry.  In many cases it comes down to me to tell people from a purely agricultural economics perspective this is a success.

However, it is not.   Canadian society can do better.  So can Canadian agriculture.  The question is how?  That’s a pretty difficult problem to consider when some people think abundant loaves of bread in our stores represent a shining example of Canadian agriculture’s commitment to a “just in time” food delivery system.  Many people are left in the balance, some of whom produce the food and some of them who are hungry for it.

One endearing image of hunger hard wired forever into my grey matter is of a boy along the railroad tracks in South Asia.  As the train stopped children would gather looking for food.  People would buy coconut and then throw the husks out.  Children would scramble after the husks.  My husk landed near the boy by the tracks.  He scrambled, was jostled by other kids and fell on the tracks without the husk.  The train started to move.  What I was left with was the image of a young boy left on the tracks crying with the pang of hunger in this belly.  Meanwhile mine groaned with the swell of sweet coconut juice.

That image grows a bit grainy over time.  However, it seems at Christmas time I always remember.  Surrounded by abundance we surely can do better.  Maybe that’s what Christmas is all about.