I am not sure what to think about plans by a Toronto company
to launch large scale corporate farming in Western Canada. My first thought is
to protect and promote the family farm, but there again I have talked to lots
of producers in recent years who operate family farms that are 15,000, 20,000
even 30,000 acres or more. So perhaps size in itself does not necessarily
constitute ‘corporate’ farming.
According to a report on Canada News Wire (CNW), Sprott
Resource Corp. of Toronto is planning to launch One Earth Farms. The company
will invest $27.5 million to establish operations, fund working capital and
support initial growth. (See the full report at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/March2009/04/c5715.html
The initial minimum target is 20,000 hectares (about 50,000
acres) in the first year. And with access to large tracts of First Nations’
farmland it will position One Earth Farms to become the largest, most efficient
farm in Canada.
Three principles behind this project are Larry Ruud, a
Vermilion, Alberta area farmer and partner in Meyers Norris Penny (he’s also a
Viterra director); Blaine Favel, a former grand chief of the Federation of
Saskatchewan Indian Nations; and Fred Siemens a former president and CEO of the
Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.
This could be a specialized venture that puts unused tracts
of Reserve land into agricultural production. And that is a good thing. But then
I also have this vision of a company that buys up entire counties in Alberta
and a bunch of rural municipalities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as it begins
its march of corporate farming across Western Canada.
Mega Global Farms is on your doorstep and you either have to
sell out or be squeezed out by this corporate giant. It is so big it can buy
Roundup for $1 per litre, has a fleet of 400 combines, 800 80-foot wide Morris
air drills, and recently bought a subsidiary company known as CP Rail. It operates
at such an economy of scale that it can make a nice profit on $5 canola. What
Mom and Pop operation can compete against that?
But I am letting my imagination run away with me on that
scenario. There is really nothing in the short news item I read that even
suggests One Earth Farms is a bad thing. Maybe I just watch too many movies.
Did any else see There Will Be Blood?
There is some aspect of this proposal that makes me wonder
if this is the start of Costco-ization of Canadian agriculture. Is that a bad thing?
It is just a sign of the times? You look at the corporate world and how many
companies that were around 10 years ago still have a neon sign out today? Mega Global Manufacturing has bought
most of them out.
I just think of all the flack Hutterite Colonies have
received over the years for buying up private farms, driving up the price of
land, taking away the support of local stores and schools, and the list of
criticisms go on.
One Earth Farms may be the best thing to happen to Canadian
agriculture, but only time will tell. With world population expected to double
over the next 30 years or so, and with that an increasing demand for food, any
projects that can bring good arable farm land into food production is a good
thing. At the moment it is just a plan on paper. And we’ll have to see what
happens if or when they actually get their first low-disturbance opener in the
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