A Quick Recap of 2022
If I was asked to assign a grade to the year that was, 2022 would likely be a C, possibly a C-. There were a few bright spots, but for the most part, the year was dominated by demoralizing news. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rampant inflation, soaring fuel prices, constant food price increases and the continued effects from the Covid pandemic are but a smattering of things that would easily have resulted in 2022 receiving a failing grade.
While there wasn’t much news that offered a glimmer of hope over the past 12 months, there were a few things that pulled a failing grade up to a C. Much of the Canadian prairies escaped the drought conditions that existed in 2021, resulting in better crop yields and livestock feed and pastures. Regrettably, too many farmers and ranchers faced a second year of drought conditions. With a dry fall, many parts of the prairies require moisture before spring seeding.
University classes returned to in-person for faculty and students, offering vastly improved education. While domestic and international travel logistics were in utter shambles on far too many occasions, the bright news from this is that we are once again able to travel to see family and friends or to take that long put-off holiday.
For myself, a highlight from the past year was the May announcement by Health Canada that the use of genome editing technologies wouldn’t be treated as plants with novel traits. Thereby reducing the regulatory burden on this innovative plant breeding technology. Of at least, let’s hope so!
What Might 2023 Hold?
Predictions of the future are notable for their epic failure. In 1876, a Western Union official observed: “[t]his ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication [and] is inherently of no value to us.” In 1903, a British Member of Parliament stated: “I do not believe the introduction of motor-cars will ever affect the riding of horses.” In 1957, an executive editor at Prentice-Hall confidently affirmed: “I have talked with the best people and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Speculation is folly for the foolish.
Yet, some insights for the year ahead, based on the evidence of the past 12 months, seem more likely. Higher food prices should be expected for much of the coming year. The key factors driving up food prices, the war in Ukraine, rising labour costs, stubbornly high inflation and high fuel costs, are not anticipated to ease much, if at all, in the coming months. While fuel prices have declined from their summer peaks, they’re still 40% higher than one year ago. Despite multiple interest rate increases, inflation remains stubbornly high and as employee salary raises kick in, gaining control over inflation is going to be considerably more difficult than many central bankers anticipate.
I think one other aspect for the year ahead, and one that is concerning, is the continued preference by too many politicians to base climate change and environmental policy directives on public pleasing figures, rather than empirical evidence. This practice is increasingly being observed, especially in the European Union’s Field to Fork Strategy, which calls for evidence lacking action items such as a 50% reduction in the use and risk of pesticides; at least a 20% reduction in fertilizer use; a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals; and increasing organic farming to reach 25% of agricultural land within Europe. Canada has indicated that it too is moving along this same path by announcing a 30% emission reduction target for fertilizer use, which similarly lacks any empirical references. This is my opinion as someone who works on agricultural policy, as I’m a strong supporter of policy being based on empirical evidence, not political or public perceptions.
Undoubtedly, there will be other obstacles that arise in the coming 12 months that serve to frustrate and challenge us. Similarly, there will be spots that occur that bring smiles to our faces. From all of us at SAIFood, I will everyone the best for 2023. May your year be filled with health, happiness and prosperity.