I just finished reading the news release (www.agr.gc.ca/cb/index_e.php?s1=n&s2=2008&page=n80520) from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, quoting the Honourable Gerry Ritz on the most recent draft proposal for the WTO negotiations. Talk about picking your words carefully! I loved the quote “We will be pressing hard (Italics added by blogger) for an outcome from the Doha Round which is good for all of Canadian agriculture, including both our export oriented and supply managed industries.”
Now what does that mean – ‘pressing hard’? Is that the same as ‘insisting upon’ or ‘won’t sign without’? When I press hard for something in negotiations with Perfect Peter– say a new patio – I nag and badger and know that potentially I may have to walk away with a new potted plant instead of a whole new patio. There may even be side deals that aren’t revealed until way down the road. You know what I mean. For instance “if you make me an apple pie every week during planting season, I’ll consider a new garden bench to go with that planted pot”. Or “if I can golf every weekend in June, there’s a new patio set of furniture in it for you.” Got the picture now? So unless that new potted plant is marijuana (with a high value chain resale potential), the new patio is simply a dream. Does Ritz even like apple pie? Maybe India and China have a good recipe. Time will tell. I’ve only been waiting since 2001. Talk about making your mouth water!
Today I read an email that I received from the General Manager of the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO). The email directed me to the following article in the Toronto Star: www.thestar.com/article/426706. The article is written by Don Coxe, Global Portfolio Strategist at BMO Financial Group. The email from EFO included a prelude that stated, “For those who bank with the BMO call and ask them if they support the position put forward by their strategist to eliminate supply management!!!!!” After receiving the email, I read the article in order to determine if I needed to contact BMO. I think the article makes a great deal of sense and is transparent – which is more than I can say for the EFO. Amongst many suggestions, Coxe suggests that supply management be ended. To some that seems unbelievable –especially to most quota holders. Wonder if tobacco farmers find it unbelievable? But if the government would follow through with Coxes’ recommendations, quota holders would be paid market value for their quota. I’m sure the tobacco farmers would have loved hearing such an offer from the government. In an earlier email that I received in the previous week, EFO General Manager stated, “I would like you call/email/write/fax/visit your MP to let them know the text (current draft WTO text) is not in the best interest of Canada and not in keeping with the motion passed in November 2005.” I would be happy to contact my MP to tell him that current proposed agreements are not in keeping with the motion that was passed in November 2005 but I’m not willing to communicate that the text is not in the best interest of Canada. That requires much more thought and research. A more correct statement might be that it’s not in the best interest of quota holders. Maybe in the mean time, EFO can develop a plan to carry on business without supply management if that is required in the future. But wait- didn’t I already ask for that at my zone’s annual meeting? Yes, I did. Someone will have to check the minutes to see for sure – but wait, there were no minutes kept. Even if there were minutes kept, you couldn’t get them. EFO doesn’t have to provide minutes – even to their members (except for the provincial annual meeting minutes).
As I continue to pursue my agriculture communications graduate diploma, I have been reminded of how simple my non-academic life can be – and the vocabulary that goes with it. To illustrate this point, let me tell you about a very recent online classroom discussion. One of the instructors was describing a communications term, called ‘relationship marketing’. Don’t get excited – even though it sounds a little like speed dating, it’s not. This is how it works. Relationship marketing is where a constituent (or a consumer) values the relationship that they have with an organization, a company or a product. The organization or company then takes steps to strengthen and maintain that relationship. Sounds complicated and extravagant to me but when you cut through the…er…crap – a talent that agriculture nurtures – it’s really known as sucking up. After this realization, I came to appreciate a little more a comment that was made in my class as well. The comment wasn’t from an instructor this time but a reputable, common sense source nonetheless – a farmer. He commented that the word ‘farmer’ and/or ‘farm’ had truly become the ‘f-word’. Well, what do you think of that? Once again, the farmer cuts through the crap and says it like it is. Is ‘farmer’ the new f-word? I must admit that I haven’t seen it scrawled on bathroom walls throughout the area. Has it been replaced by more extravagant terms like ‘agriculture’ and ‘agri-business’? Statistics show that farmers are one of the most trusted occupations in Canada. I certainly can’t use the word ‘farmer’, the same way as the more common f-word – by adding ‘ing’ and using it to describe my bank fees or maybe used just once to describe Agricorp (those were my pre-Oprah days!). Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and that means calling a spade, a spade and a farmer, a farmer.