One of my favorite assignments over the decades has been working very closely with Canadian agriculture through my relationship with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Growing up next to the Canadian border in upstate New York and playing border league basketball in the U.S. and Canada both provided a great venue for understanding and respecting Canadians and their culture in my youth.
Recently, I was asked to be a virtual guest speaker at the Ag in Motion Farm Expo sponsored by the RBC’s Knowledge Center. I chuckle about the Knowledge Center because one of my graduate students, Troy Wilson, who is now an executive for RBC, and I conceptualized the program on a sabbatical assignment. You never know how seeds grow in the future! During my virtual presentation, the listeners were engaged and asked some interesting questions. Let’s take a closer look at these questions and my answers.
Is the term “glocal” one we should be getting used to?
Absolutely! It is important to think globally and act locally. The pandemic has accelerated the need for transparency from producers to consumers, regardless of where we live on the globe. How food and fiber is produced, processed and distributed will become much more important in the buying experience. When compared to major competitors, a strategic advantage that Canadian and U.S. agriculture have is healthy soil and water. Healthy soil and water provide the basis for the foundation of healthy plants, animals, humans and the environment. This will become even more important as biological issues and challenges will replace the physical challenges of the last century as a game changer.
Hog processing is concentrated in Alberta, Canada. Will the government see this as an issue both in Canada and the United States?
Yes, not only the government, but consumers and society, as well. Supply and marketing chain disruptions in critical industries such as agriculture and technology will be carefully scrutinized. There is a place for concentrated processing focused on efficiency and optimization, but there must be a balance of small processors for diversification and resiliency.
What are your thoughts on food inflation?
Food inflation could occur if shortages happen as a result of disruption in production, processing or distribution. However, food inflation may be influenced by food programs in Canada and the U.S. and, eventually, unemployment levels and income.
Will COVID-19 create an acceleration of farm and ranch consolidation?
Yes and no! Farm consolidation will quickly accelerate. However, at the other end of the spectrum, smaller more diversified farms serving niche markets will increase. These operations will be very entrepreneurial, aligned with the marketplace and have owners that manage with a high business IQ. These niche markets may be local, regional, national or international.
The Ag in Motion conference is definitely a trendsetter. The engagement with individuals with well composed questions makes it a pleasure to work with our great neighbors to the north.