Remember I wrote in part one about saving the land and not the farmer? This is where it comes into play. The first step is the farmer. The first question is. Who is a farmer? I am not talking about someone who wears farmers clothes and owns a pickup truck.
A bona fide farmer is someone who is knowledgeable about farming practices and can grow high quality product on a consistent basis. It does not mean you are an instant farmer because you can afford to buy the land.
We have overlooked this first important step in the farm equation. Going forward we need to invest in growers who are trained and are prepared to become bona fide farmers.
Let me give you an example. The prime market for our product is western Canada and hopefully more export for apples. Cherries are already there. The framework is built on quality.
Therefore farmers have to grow value varieties in large sizes consistently. Their pack-outs need to be 70% or better graded extra fancy.
Today smaller sizes and lower grades do not meet the profitability threshold to provide sustainable returns, and here are a couple of examples why.
From feedback I am getting the cull rate charged back to the farmer is around 24 cents a pound with other overhead costs on top of that.
What does this have to do with the ALR? The ALR is not going to compensate for poor growing practices. Quality is not essential it is mandatory for survival. That is where saving the farmers begins. It is not about relaxing ALR Rules or cash relief payments or even subsidies. It is about growing the right varieties in the right sizes for the target market the industry seeks to serve. Take note, even in an off year farmers at the top end are making money, not as much as a normal year but a profit none the less.
There are some basic principles for every year. One can buy crop insurance and invest in the other programs such as Agri-Stability.
The practice of cash handouts ended long ago. But there can be room for assisting new farmers to get onto the land, there can be investment in new technologies to create both opportunity, and sustainability.
So again what does this have to do with the ALR? Every industry has rules they have to live within. When these vital rules are weakened it causes problems down the road. Problems with unforeseen consequences.
It gets tempting to relax the rules for those who can’t make it otherwise. We went through the agony of allowing cabins and other vacant facilities to be rentals before. It led to people circumventing the law and the rules changed.
The problem is laws come into effect in a manner that punishes everyone instead of only those who skirt the rules.
In part four there is a list of pressures that lead to frustration, emphasizing the 1973 covenant that allowed for home severance if you owned the land prior to the ALR.
We already have challenges to ‘Right to Farm’ legislation.
Farms surrounded by housing and urban development are under pressure already.
There are a number of other issues to be resolved and in the next and last part of this series we will address most of them:
Multiple families buying farms and wanting to build multiple dwellings,
Those wanting to use ALR land for non conforming purposes.
Mega houses often on smaller lots and the land not farmed
Building secondary houses and carriage houses increasing the non farm use imprint.
The single biggest factor why you will see changes but not the exit for the ALR.
I think everyone can see bringing up the land reserve and discussing changes is something akin to playing hop scotch in a minefield.