Organic Farming in Saskatchewan Part 2

Organic and traditional farming

July 6, 2017

This is the second of a three-part blog on organic farming

It’s no secret that agriculture is a strong pillar of Saskatchewan’s economic heritage, providing a major cornerstone for our economy. One of the largest, and growing, demands in our modern agricultural industry is for organic products. There is a segment of consumers who are increasingly insisting upon organic food options, and are invested in supporting the organic farming industry. Let’s take a closer look at organic farming as an investment, an export and a talking point at the water cooler.

Investor interest in organic farming

Even the Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) industry is climbing onto the bandwagon. According to fund data from ETF.com analyzed by CNBC, more than 10% of the 200-plus ETFs launched in 2016 were directed at so-called innovative or socially responsible economic trends, and this includes a growing investor interest in organic farming.

The difference between organic and traditional farming

We looked at some differences in the previous post within this blog series, but let’s discuss things a little further. As the demand for organic products is on the rise, so too is the demand for organic farmers to create these products. And, along with that, there is a growing debate about the relative merits of two very different approaches to agricultural production: traditional and organic.

Simply put, farmers using conventional or traditional methods might spray synthetic chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Organic farmers would, instead, apply natural fertilizers such as manure or compost to feed the soil and the plants. Both methods are effective, and grow food that we eat and enjoy. The difference is primarily personal preference.

The majority of food we consume is produced using so-called industrialized agriculture, which is a type of agriculture where large quantities of crops and livestock are grown through industrial techniques. This type of agriculture relies heavily on a variety of chemicals and artificial enhancements, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and – more recently – genetically modified organisms.

Both types of agricultural production take place in Saskatchewan – at Cooper Schneider Financial we support both kinds of producer – although traditional agriculture remains the dominant segment in the Saskatchewan economy.

Up-to-date statistics are somewhat difficult to locate but, according to Statistics Canada (2011) – as reported in The Western Producer (June 19, 2012) – there were 1,105 organic operations in Saskatchewan, a traditional Canadian leader in organic production, in both farm numbers and farm size. That’s out of a total farm population in Saskatchewan – again according to Statistics Canada – of just under 40,000.

Co-existence

There is, of course, an on-going debate between traditional and organic farmers about the relative merits of both kinds of agricultural production. Farmers growing crops under different farming practices in close proximity to one another – whether traditional or organic – is known as coexistence.

Coexistence is well established and well understood, and has occurred successfully for decades around the world. However, the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops more than 15 years ago generated renewed discussions about the coexistence of traditional, organic and GM crops. That debate continues.

Agri-Food exports: win, win

Whatever side of the debate you are inclined to favor, if you have a preference at all, the Canadian Agri-Food export industry continues to flourish, which is good news for all of us. Below, based on Statistics Canada numbers, is our most recently available total performance figures – traditional and organic combined. They make, we hope you agree, encouraging reading:

Canadian Top 5 Agri-Food Exports (CDN$ million)

2013 2014 2015
Domestic Agri-Food Exports: 46,012.396 51,541.026 55,450.303
Non-durum wheat, other than seed for sowing 5,103.189 5,771.165 5,874.401
Canola seed, low erucic acid 4,306.481 5,149.679 4,952.713
Lentils, dried, shelled 1,175.333 1,461.978 2,495.699
Soybeans, other than seed for sowing 2,005.070 1,904.695 2,237.898
Durum wheat, other than seed for sowing 1,574.626 2,179.708 2,037.773

Healthy bread exists and it’s the greatest thing since, well, you know

In our third and final and soon to be released blog post on organic agriculture in Saskatchewan, we’ll share with you the highlights from a recent article in The Globe and Mail which we absolutely loved reading.

It’s about a forward-thinking bakery in Saskatoon whose bread is based – almost exclusively – on whole grains from Saskatchewan farming sources: red fife wheat, purple wheat, spelt, dark buckwheat, khorasan, einkorn and rye. The article is called, rather amusingly, Healthy bread exists and it’s the greatest thing since, well, you know.

Stay tuned!

Daryl Cooper, Portfolio Manager, Scotia Wealth Management, 306-343-3255.
Colleen Schneider, Wealth Advisor, Scotia Wealth Management, 306-664-1860.