Right in the centre - Farmers feed us all


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

March is a memorable month for me. Seventy-six years ago I was born on March 29. I remember many of the intervening Marches. One year, when I was in my very, very early school days, we had to travel by horse drawn sleigh and van to school because the roads weren’t passable for a truck. The snowplows of the day couldn’t keep up. Yes, students used to be hauled to school in the back of a covered in pick up truck. But that year our early 1950s rear wheel drive half ton could not make it through the snow clogged roads. It wasn’t  “over the fields we go” or “dashing through the snow”, it was more like slogging all the way.

Another March, actually on my March 29 birthday, I had an agronomist friend out to my own farm at Arden and the snow had receded so much and the sandy soil had warmed up enough that the alfalfa was sprouting nicely. Needless to say that was an exceptionally early spring. One year, on my birthday, we had five calves born in one day. That was memorable.

So this March, while bringing back a flood of memories, also stirs some thoughts about the past but also about the present. Attended a bull sale on the weekend, and yes the ranchers are still optimistic and buying bulls. Some of them sold at very good money too. Something about March and calving season that brings out the buyers for a new bull to better the genetics of the herd.

Grain growers are putting the finishing touches on seed, fertilizer and machinery purchases. Machinery is being, or has been, made field ready. After some very dry years, and surprisingly good crops and prices, growers are figuring it may be a more “average” year this year but hope springs eternal within the human breast and perhaps that’s where the spring season gets its name. Even the Neepawa Titans Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club gets into the spring season theme as they are in the playoffs and looking forward to the annual Ag Expo auction.

Here’s some spring thoughts to chew on for a while. 

Farmers feed us all, so please don’t speak out against farmers while your mouth is full. Farmers provide a lot of habitat for wildlife, way more in some areas than when they used to when one-third of the crop acres were kept black in summer fallow. 

Carbon taxes raise food prices and for everything else. Carbon taxes don’t lower consumption because most of fuel consumption is essential in rural areas. Rural people don’t just fire up the tractors, trucks and combines for the fun of it. Mostly it is essential.

And so here’s a thought. Back in the day, when I was a child, crop yields were far less than now. Today’s yields were unheard of in the 1950s and 60s. Why is that? One reason is minimum tillage which retains more moisture than the old tillage methods. Another is that seed varieties are better. Fertilizer use is more targeted and better utilized. And, if Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels are higher now yields will be higher. Many people don’t know that greenhouse operators pump CO2 into greenhouses to get better plant growth. Perhaps a slightly higher CO2 level in the atmosphere is a good thing. I think it is, but all the liberals will disagree.

And finally, if you are worried about too much CO2 going into the atmosphere, then stop buying stuff from China. That’s where the problem is. Or you can convince the volcanoes in Iceland to stop erupting.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.