A couple of speakers discussed the significance of agriculture in Saskatchewan during the Estevan Farmer's Appreciation Evening on February 28 at the Days Inn Plaza.
Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities president David Marit, who farms near Coronach, was upbeat about the future of the sector during his speech.
“I'm proud to be part of this great province, and a part of the agriculture industry that continues to define the determined and innovative people that live here, and are driving that growth,” said Marit. “As agriculture producers, we all deserve a pat on the back for leading that growth.”
Thanks to agriculture, Marit said Saskatchewan has what the world needs: nutritious and healthy foods that reflect the adaptive nature of producers.
“Droughts in major grain-producing regions of the world have allowed grain prices to hit their highest levels we've ever seen, at least for me, anyways,” said Marit. “And, in turn, this is also driving up land prices, as many of you know. We've never seen prices of land hit the value they're at now.”
Saskatchewan has also eclipsed Ontario as the No. 1 exporter of agriculture commodities in the country.
“We're feeding the world,” Marit said.
As China and India continue to see their middle class expand, Saskatchewan's agriculture exports will continue to grow, too.
Marit noted that there is now global interest for people to move to Saskatchewan, purchase farm land and raise their families in the province.
The livestock sector hasn't enjoyed as much success, he said due to droughts that increase the price of feed, but producers are now waiting for the next opportunity to thrive.
Saskatchewan manufacturers are also developing world-class equipment for seeding, tillage, grain-handling, storage, transportation, livestock and forage, spraying, fertilizer application and rock removal.
Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter was the other keynote speaker. He discussed his background as an administrator with a rural municipality, the impact of agriculture on the province and the provincial government's efforts to support agriculture.
“While we understand the importance of a diversified economy, I think that agriculture will forever be at the core of our economy, because the heart of Saskatchewan is still at home in the family farms that built this province,” said Reiter.
Agriculture is an important part of the province's plan for growth that was released last fall, Reiter said. It sets a target for increasing agri-food exports by 50 per cent by 2020. The plan also has a goal to increase crop production by 10 million tonnes during the same period, through new research, innovation and bio-sciences.
“Our province has the potential to feed a growing world,” said Reiter. “We have more than 40 per cent of the arable land in the entire country.”
The provincial government has established an institute for food security, thanks to investments from the government and Potash Corp.
Other highlights from the Farmer's Appreciation evening included the presentation of the Farm Family of the Year Award, speeches from members of the Browning 4-H Club, and entertainment by comedian Tom Liske.
The Farmer's Appreciation Evening was an effort of the Estevan Chamber of Commerce and the Estevan Exhibition Association.