Water and Policy Threaten Food Production

Will climate policy impoverish farmers?

The global debate on the where countries should spend their money is literally heating up. As the earth faces temperatures unprecedented in our recorded history, governments are struggling on the question of where to spend limited resources. Those countries already at the brink of fiscal collapse are trying to cope with increased poverty even as the earth boils.

It’s a scorching agenda for politicians as the future access to capital may very easily depend on the climate initiatives that were undertaken. By addressing climate, they then short their constituents on social expenditures such as health care, alleviating poverty and food security. The July issue of the The Economist reported that countries have argued that if we don’t have an earth then poverty alleviation is mute.

We must also be prepared to ask if the criteria for access to development funds is not a method of controlling food access and food security in the long run. At the farm gate, we may see requirements that we cannot afford.

Media Perpetuates the Myths

There is media promotion, fueled by those who have influence, that there is little food. Farmers themselves have never produced more, nor have they done so as efficiently as they do now, even with cost of production increases and supply chain issues.

Access to food differs from food production. And food access known as food security is tied to a functioning infrastructure and a living wage or steady income. As poverty increases, so will food insecurity, regardless how much there is to eat.

When food production increased, so did waste. Waste is a contributor to the inability to access food as demand keeps prices up. In Canada, food waste is nearly 60%, most of it at the plate, while food insecurity has risen to 18%. In other parts of the world, the waste is from inadequate infrastructure and storage. These are the issues to address.

Climate challenges are real. But we are not fueling the conversation from the perspective of risk mitigation if it does not include societal well-being and infrastructure improvement.

Water and Waste

While we stand in the field and wait for rain to fall or for the smoke to clear, one must also ask what is going on below the surface to put food production and accessibility at such great risk.

Allowing for aquafers to be depleted for resource development contributes to the loss of water in the air. Depleting one part of the ecosystem, through upstream development, pumping the water out, deforestation, changing or destroying watersheds or urban development breaks the ecological balance that contributes to global warming. Add to this the amount of waste dumped and released green house gases, and we are literally changing the atmosphere. The root of the problem is what we have to done to contaminate and eliminate our ground and clean sea water.

Where We Stand as a Community

Now that the earth is warm, we must look at where we literally stand and as a universal farming community ensure that we are not caught in the chokehold of climate regulations that do not reflect long term risk mitigation or enhancement of food systems. We can start by questioning food production lands used as carbon sinks for those outside our country and outside of our industry in long term covenants.

Long term covenants are handicaps for the changes needed to feed a growing world that has less money than ever before being spent on those who need it. Our compliance framework must be self driven if we want food to continue to be produced for all persons and we it is essential act on the needed infrastructure changes.

Farming is the solution. As food producers we must stop and think about the long-term implications of climate and climate policy, especially when it comes to access to capital. And it is of value to appreciate how agriculture intersects with all other human activities and ensure we are not used in the drama to promote agendas that are damaging in the long term. Agriculture could drive the collaborative agenda.

Access to capital is a defining element in the economic prosperity of a nation and is especially critical in food production. In many parts of the world this is threatened by larger climate issues that demand immediate attention or require farmers to spend on climate mitigation that they cannot afford. The fall-out has been an exodus from the farm by smaller landholders, those farmers which are critical to ensure both diversity and biodiversity in food production.

If the investment continues to focus on what is or isn’t in the sky rather than focus on what is or isn’t under our feet, we may never address the foundational problems that perpetuate climate change. Nor will we empower social well being and address the issue of access to food for all. The exodus of farm families from the land will not recede if they cannot access finance.

It is important that agriculture be financially solid, vibrant, able to move at the speed of commerce, have supportive infrastructure and in step with societal needs so we can be part of the collaborative solution to climate concerns.

@Brenda Schoepp 2023