Can the Traditional Family Farm Survive Globalization and Free Trade?


March 24, 2011 :: Brian Otto
Moderated by Ed Bardock

Arguments for supporting the family farm appear to be plentiful among both urban and rural folks. However, paying more for food is not one of them. This type of farming has in the past been the lifeblood of the rural society economy, but driven by many different factors, the landscape is changing. What was considered an “industrial farm” 30 years ago is now the norm and as technology expands, chances are, so will the size of family farms.

The speaker will argue that despite variable government subsidy programs around the world, which often makes it difficult for Canadian farmers to compete, the family farm can survive. However, efforts to make it more attractive for the younger generation to replace the aging majority of present family farm owners are paramount. Related to that, farmers needs better marketing opportunities for their products, which often are handicapped by obstructive regulations, frequently involving the Canadian Wheat Board. The speaker will further relate how farm policies can affect food and environmental safety.

Speakers: Brian Otto

A third generation farmer, Brian Otto has been a grain, oilseeds and special crops grower for 38 years. He also holds a teaching degree (1971) from the University of Calgary. Brian, his wife Carolyn and family operate a 4,000-acre farm near Warner, AB.

Otto has been a director and vice-chair of the Alberta Barley Commission where he helped develop the Commission’s governance policy. In the 1980s, Brian helped start and was an executive on the board of directors serving the Alberta Winter Wheat Association (which later became the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission) and the Alberta Safflower Growers Association.

Brian Otto served on the Western Grains Research Foundation for 12 years and is the current president of the Western Barley Growers Association. His community work includes coaching school sports and he volunteered on the Warner School Parent Advisory Council from 1984 to 1998. Brian was a founding director of the Warner Girls Hockey School.


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