Conservatives kill a profitable 77 year-old food protection program

harper and moose.jpf

Governments around the world are scrapping programs and staff to get their fiscal house in order, so I’m dumbfounded when Stephen Harper cancels a program returning 200% profit and protects prairies against drought. Mr. Harper must have his head up the east-end of a westbound moose.

Under cuts to Agriculture Canada, the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration’s (PFRA) longstanding shelter-belt and community pasture programs will be divested and eventually turned over to the provinces or the private sector.

Within the shadow of Bill C-38, the 452-page omnibus budget bill introduced a year ago, Ottawa had decided after 77 years that it was time to close the agency and hand responsibility for the 9,300 square kilometres it administers – an area nearly twice the size of Prince Edward Island – to the provinces where the land is located.

But the provinces will likely sell prime pasture land to corporate investors or foreign corporations, the only one’s able to afford to purchase such vast tracts of food production.

According to an article by Trevor Herriot in the Globe and Mail, ”

Phrases such as “food security” seldom arise at the coffee shop or rink, but many farmers know the PFRA is a bulwark against the forces now consolidating and globalizing the beef industry. With large feeder cattle operations and foreign-owned meat processors tilting the marketplace their way, community pastures have helped to sustain smaller operators, keeping our national livestock herd connected to local economies.

When that other icon of prairie farm economy, the Canadian Wheat Board, was stripped of its collective bargaining power last year, urban people, even in the grain-growing provinces, found it hard to grasp the significance. The PFRA controversy, by contrast, has cowboys sitting in rooms talking to aboriginal people, and farmers breaking bread with urban environmentalists and hunters.

The difference is in the common ground represented by the services that healthy native grassland has to offer all of us, town and country.

If well managed, grassland can flourish when subjected to grazing, but once it is plowed to grow crops, biologists say it has been “converted” because more than just the crocuses disappear; the appropriation is total. The public values and natural capital found in the prairie – its capacity to store carbon, foster biodiversity, stabilize fragile soils, filter and hold water, and provide recreation for hunters, hikers and naturalists, and stirring beauty for the rest of us – do not survive.”

Read the complete article on the Globe & Mail here.

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