Comment: Escaping the echo chamber on Agriculture Day


If the point of Agriculture Day is meant to celebrate and promote agriculture, it sort of succeeded on the first and failed on the second. 

Celebrations were done mostly inside an echo chamber. Industry people went, nobody else heard much about it.

Industry can look outside of itself to see there are effective ways to talk about agriculture with the broader public. 

Formal events during the day put on by Farm Credit Canada and other organizers were fine enough, but it was mostly preaching to the converted.

A virtual event featuring an engaging conversation about the industry’s economic potential with Dominic Barton, Canada’s Ambassador to China, got no attention in mainstream media. 

A session featuring industry professionals had more self-congratulatory promotion than stimulating debate. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s virtual visit to a farm, promoted on his social media channels, reaped responses mostly criticizing the industry, or just him in general. 

“Animal agriculture is going to kill us all, one way or another. Physically, environmentally, virally. Take your pick. It’s all bad news,” read one response. 

If Joe and Jane Public did hear any news about agriculture this week, it was from a group called Farmers for Climate Solutions

They do not have a relationship with the organizers of Canada’s Agricultural Day and as far as I could tell, were not involved with any of the official events taking place. 

Farmers for Climate Solutions is a group I wrote about in September that has since harvested a decent amount of media attention, including the only ag-related coverage from Canada’s largest broadcasters during Ag Day events. 

The advocacy group considers ways the green economic restart, favoured by the governing Liberals, can be beneficial to producers. 

They’ve put out reports with some tangible solutions to climate change, and are considered to have authority on the subject of agriculture. Membership includes the National Farmers Union and Canadian Organic Growers.

On Feb. 23, Farmers for Climate Solutions helped create a dialogue and debate about the future of Canadian agriculture. 

The group called on the federal government to provide a $300 million investment to cut agricultural emissions in the 2021 budget.

They propose improving nitrogen management, increasing cover crops, normalizing rotational grazing, protecting wetlands, powering farms with clean fuels and celebrating climate champions through financial awards. 

Those are the ideas existing in the real world, outside the echo chamber, on Agriculture Day. 

Essentially, a day organized and funded by government and industry to promote itself was commandeered by a smattering of organizations united behind a common voice lobbying for something clear and concise: money in the next federal budget to help farmers combat climate change. 

It’s a lesson the industry and government can learn from. 

Joe and Jane Public want to hear about new ideas in the fight against climate change, and debate the merits of those ideas. They want to hear those ideas from a variety of groups and people.

If the point of Agriculture Day is meant to celebrate and promote agriculture, it needs to have a heightened focus on the issues that matter outside the echo chamber of industry and government. 

Looking at the challenges and opportunities from climate change is a good place to start.