The 4 Fs will change us all

Nearly every rural Manitoban knows the mean of 4-H.
It stands for Canada’s nearly 100 year old rural youth program and the Hs stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health.
Few people might guess what the 4Fs are but once you find out you will never forget.
And that’s a good thing because the 4 Fs are about to change rural Manitoba, rural Canada and the whole face of rural living world wide.
In discussion with a grains policy expert last week we came up with the 4Fs.
In days gone by, agricultural land has been called upon to produce Food and Feed. Food for human consumption and Feed for livestock that in turn becomes human food in many cases.
For the first time in a long time the farm land base is being called upon to produce the third – namely Fuel. With biodiesel plants like the new ADM plant in North Dakota now on line and producing the impact on canola prices has been huge. With oil at $100 per barrel the impetus for biodiesel is huge.
Strangely enough the ADM plant isn’t shipping its product to domestic markets. A company rep at Brandon’s Ag Days said the US domestic market isn’t ready to pay the price. The biodiesel is being shipped by rail to the Gulf of Mexico, loaded on tanker ships and sent to foreign markets, mostly in Europe.
At the top of the previous paragraph I said “first time in a long time” because agriculture used to produce most of it’s own fuel for field power in the form of hay and oats and much of the power for steam engines came from burning straw. Most of the home heating came from home grown wood.
Several Manitoba biodiesel plants are in the construction or planning stages. It remains to be seen whether the fuel goes local or for export. It will be interesting to see what happens.
But now there’s a fourth “F” and that’s Fibre. Apparently companies like Toyota are investing a lot of research money into biodegradable fibre for car parts. Seems the demand for “green” product, stuff that will break down in a biological fashion when it’s recycled is becoming quite large. It should also be noted that fibre used to be farm produced a lot more than it is now. In Hungary, my wife’s grandmother gathered and wove hemp fibre to make everything from bedding to baking cloths but that was long time ago.
So instead of agricultural land being called upon to supply two Fs, Food and Feed, it’s now being called on again to produce Fuel and Fibre.
So Manitoba is in a strange position. The 4Fs are about to change Manitoba. Farm land prices are going to go up. Grain demand is already up. Cattle, hog and poultry feed costs are under tremendous upward pressure.
What do we do?
As was suggested to some young farmers last week, be optimistic but be cautiously optimistic.

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