I’m writing this editorial on a dreary, rainy day, but you and I both know that there’s no time for self-care at this point. Rain or shine, there’s just so much to be done and that needs to be taken care of, such as labour, management, investments, etc.
The most recent issue that requires our attention is Bill 41 as submitted by the MAPAQ. As you may well imagine, it brings me no joy; and truth be told, it doesn’t please any other agricultural organization or stakeholder. Only the Ordre des agronomes du Québec seems to, in fact, gain some level of satisfaction.
In early June, as I was finishing off sowing soy and dry beans crops, I was also thinking about our agronomists and our network and what their future would look like if this Bill were to be adopted into law. To separate the sale of farm inputs from advisory services, as is essentially the proposal set forth by the government, will most certainly impact the freedom of agricultural producers to act independently as well as the very nature of our agriculture. Could we imagine a more disastrous context as food shortages looms ahead?
As a producer, this Bill is disturbing. It is disturbing because it questions my independence and my expertise in terms of my own business! If I am forced to seek the advice of an independent consultant every time I have to make an agronomy-related decision about my own farm, because, according to some, a conflict of interest exists with agronomists from our network, then my farm business will undoubtedly suffer.
What we want as producers is to work efficiently, make knowledgeable decisions and act quickly. This Bill is basically throwing a wrench in the gears and slowing down our decision-making capacity as well as hindering the logistics of our farm businesses. Not to mention that our autonomy, knowledge and know-how are no longer acknowledged. Agricultural producers are more educated and knowledgeable than ever before. In fact, many are themselves agronomists or technologists. This means that suddenly their expertise is neither acknowledged nor recognized. It’s the world turned upside down. How many agronomists will be needed to perform the many, many interventions required by this new Bill project? Remember, not only is there a labour shortage but there is also a shortage of agronomists!
This amendment project upsets how we work on our farm businesses, and as president of Sollio Cooperative Group, I have come to the conclusion that it will break down the logistics of our network’s supply chain. I am very concerned about the impact it will have on our organization and Quebec’s agriculture as a whole.
Let’s not forget that cooperatives were established to lend a helping hand to producers who have taken charge of their businesses and implemented input supply infrastructures. With the intent of helping and guiding farmers, these services are delivered by highly qualified professionals, consultants, agronomists and technologists committed to the success of their client-producers. These professionals are aware of our societal issues and informed about the most recent and advanced technologies and, in large part thanks to our own R&D investments, they can recommend new agronomical practices that are more respectful and considerate of the environment. The relationship of trust that is built between an adviser and his client-producer is certainly an asset when addressing questions of sustainable development. Think about the potential of reducing agriculture’s carbon output. However, in its current iteration, this Bill will wipe out this relationship.
The Agronomist Act, which dates back to 1972, must be revisited and adapted to today’s reality. But to do this, there needs to be discussion and debate, and we need to work together to find solutions. We only had a limited amount of time to get ready for the very short consultation period allowed for this project. And we had no clear sense of being listened.
This Bill simply doesn’t hold up in its current form. Agricultural organizations and producers will be submitted to the consequences of this approach that basically disregards what’s actually going on in the fields. If the government wants to listen to what consumers have to say, then it must necessarily acknowledge that a better understanding of the needs and issues of agricultural producers as well as our production model is also required.
Due to its complex nature, this Bill is impossible to implement, and furthermore lacks any kind of consensus. It needs to be reviewed from top to bottom. We will mobilize and call upon our allies to appeal to the government to go back to the drawing board and be more responsive to what the agricultural world has to say.
I wish you all a pleasant season!