By Henry Vissers
Seems like the year went quickly. My son says the reason time seems to go by faster as you get older is because of the amount of time you have already experienced. In other words, the percentage of time that a year constitutes is less than your total age. Huh?
Let's do like Scrooge and look at past, present and future for the farm community.
We'll start with the past.
The census report came out this year but it's based on data collected in 2011. For Nova Scotia we bucked the trend and experienced an increase in the number of farms in the province of 236 farmers or about a six per cent increase. We also had an increase in farm gate sales to $600 million. Very positive numbers.
For the present (2012), we've had a number of successes, starting with changes made by the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (SNSMR) to the regulations for farm license plates to make the regulations less restrictive.
The main changes to the regulations are that farmers can now licence a passenger van of seven or more seats as a farm vehicle and transport farm workers to and from fields (or their workplace).
You can also use your farm-plated vehicle to transport your neighbours' products or supplies and as long as you are on farm business you can complete your other errands (i.e.: get the groceries) under the amended regulations.
Another success was the addition of two new food goals in the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act known as EGSPA.
After lobbying and presentation to Law Amendments the additions were:
1. local food consumption is supported and encouraged, with the goal of 20 per cent of the money spent on food by Nova Scotians being spent on locally produced food by 2020
2. local food production is supported and encouraged, with the goal of increasing the number of local farms by five per cent by 2020
So now let's look forward.
The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture announced the movement of its head office and staff to the Truro-Bible Hill area. Since the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has moved to Perennia Park in Bible Hill we have been watching and looking forward to them joining us in the park. 2013 will see the completion of the move.
Of course, it's in the nature of a farmer to believe next year will be better. This year has had some weather challenges but was overall it was a good growing season. We are continually aware that climate change is a double-edged sword, with a longer growing season but unpredictable weather events such as the heavy rains Truro experienced this fall.
There are still a number of trade agreements that we are watching.
I would expect the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to be completed in 2013. There are a number of concerns for the farm community including increased access to the Canadian market for dairy products and on the plus side increased access for Canadian beef and pork.
I'm reminded of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) here. You don't really know how these deals will really affect us until they are in place for a while.
Finally, for present and future, grain prices spiked this year because of the drought in the United States Midwest.
This is again a good and bad story for Nova Scotia farmers. Livestock producers paid more for grain but crop growers received a better price.
I expect the price of grain to fall back a bit in 2013, but demand is still good because of the relatively new ethanol market.
Red meat process will also increase because of the knock-on effect of grain prices as well as the reduced cattle placement in the U.S., Brazil and others due to continued drought conditions.
That's a quick roundup. There are many more topics and when you buy your groceries make sure you check for local labels and ask if you don't see a local product.
Henry Vissers is the executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He lives with his family in Valley.