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Producers Must Help Shape Public Perception

How does agriculture change public opinion? This is a critical question for our industry because public opinion does matter.

More and more we are seeing environmental and health regulations that are based on perception and public opinion rather than being grounded in sound science.

This distorted view of agriculture has already been translated into legislation and regulations that target our industry and limit the economic growth of rural Manitoba and our province. As agricultural producers, if we do not address this issue directly there will be more restrictions to come.

We are not going to win the debate by simply telling our non-farming neighbours and urban cousins that they are wrong. We need to tell them a different story.

It is time that agriculture starts talking (shouting might be better) about the good things modern agriculture does to enhance the environment we all live in.

For example, beef production in Canada delivers many environmental benefits to society. Pastures have the unique ability to encourage grassland preservation while maintaining economic productivity. Pastures through soil conservation are widely sought by various species of wildlife. This is shown by work done on the 409,000 acres of grasslands that are preserved in the community pasture program in Manitoba. These pastures alone provide a home to 33 different species at risk.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the biodiversity found on well-managed pastures exceeds that found on land set aside as nature preserves which is not grazed. Beef producers in this province are also actively conserving Manitoba’s wetlands.

Beef producers in Manitoba are actively funding scientific research aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of our industry. The millions of dollars that Canadian producers have contributed to research have led to improved production practices that are increasing the efficiency of our industry while enhancing the protection of our water and air quality.

We need to tell our story—the real story. The fact is, farmers and ranchers are the original stewards of the land and water but the majority of Manitobans have no connection to our industry and they don’t know that.

Individual producers and their commodity group associations (like MBP) need to speak out. We need to demonstrate our commitment through the editorial pages of newspapers, YouTube and the other tools of modern communication. You need to talk to your MP, MLA, local reeve and councillor. Ask them: “What have you done to draw attention to the importance of Manitoba’s beef industry?”

If we do not speak out, urban Canada will only hear the “misinformation.” We will all find ourselves hearing inaccurate stories about the impact of our industry on the province and we will face misguided regulations aimed at correcting non-existent problems.