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For 22 years, there has been a unique conference held in Moose Jaw hosted by Dr. Andy Schmitz - a noted North American agricultural economist. This conference picks a new theme each year to talk about a particular aspect of the agricultural economy. Its title is Farming for....Profit?

Andy has always believed that if you can put people from academia, industry and actual farmers together in one room for a couple of days of discussion, socializing and brain-storming then you can make the world a better place to live in and have agriculture maintain its profitability. That is not an easy chore to achieve but at least Andy keeps trying which is more than can be said for some of our other agricultural institutions, related companies and our governments.

This year the main topics were animal diseases, food insecurity, exchange rate volatility and the impact that oil price volatility has on agriculture. As usual, in the last few years there has been a good discussion on grain transportation, grain handling and what are the prospects of solving the problems. I always enjoy the participation of the Grain Workers Union and their spokesperson Gerry Gault who comes down from Vancouver to give a report and suggestions on what is actually happening at the loading docks. Gerry's report is often totally different from that which is delivered by the grain companies, railroads and government monitors. His comments always seem closer to the truth than what we hear from the other "official" sources. I wonder why that is.

The final thing I will mention about this conference is a presentation made by Professor Karen Lewis from the University of Tennessee talking about the beef cattle business in her state and how small beef operations in the 30-50 cow range were extremely profitable these days. This is totally opposite to what people in western Canada involved in the industry are telling farmers and ranchers. It seems if you don't have economies of scale - i.e. at least a couple of hundred head of cows - you can't be profitable. The secret in Tennessee seems to be the ability of people to combine off-farm income with the cattle business and good management practices which make this profitability possible. If we are going to re-grow our cow herd and accrue the benefits of that growth for our provincial economy then maybe we need to look at some of the concepts that are working in other places. If people want to work that hard, then we should be encouraging them - not dissuading them.

On a final note, I am sure many of you saw the articles and news reports about Saskatchewan's only hyperbaric chamber being moved to the new regional hospital in Moose Jaw. Apparently they are going to knock out one of the exterior walls to add on the 800 square feet necessary to house the chamber next to the other pulmonary support equipment. This is something the health region and the government swore could not be done to the new hospital because it would mess up the "lean" process.

Well so much for the "lean" process when your political hide is on the line. The two Sask Party MLAs in Moose Jaw who after saying for many months that people weren't concerned about the hyperbaric chamber staying in Moose Jaw now all of a sudden saw the light. Premier Wall had to ride in on his white horse once again and try to save their political backsides and somehow magically found the $600,000 necessary to make the move. Just think of all the hassle that could have been avoided if the health region and government had listened to the people in the first place. But then again Brad Wall wouldn't have had his day in the sun if that would have happened. There must be an election coming. Stay tuned for more rabbits coming out of the Premier's magic hat.

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.