Y2K and Agriculture: Are Canadian Farmers Ready?

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Y2K and Agriculture: Are Canadian Farmers Ready?

By Jeff Atkinson
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Excerpts: Complete article at:

Also available in French

The following article is based on a presentation made by Mr. Atkinson on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry on November 26, 1998. The committee was holding its second round of hearings into the preparedness of Canadian government and industry for the Year 2000 computer date roll-over.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is an umbrella organization representing more than 200,000 farmers and farm families across Canada. It is the nation's largest farming organization and its members include provincial general farm organizations as well as national and inter-provincial commodity groups.

The Year 2000 Computer Bug is an issue that CFA has been following since the early half of this year. It worked with the Canadian Farm Business Management Council on a project to produce Y2K information materials targeted to individual farmers and farm managers. The result of that project was a booklet by the title of "Time to Act: the Year 2000 Computer Bug and Agriculture" and a website, where people could download a copy of the booklet and access information more specific to their own farming operations. This booklet, which became available in October (in very limited quantities) was the first of its kind on the planet. It has since attracted the attention of the American Farm Bureau as well as the Australia's National Farmers' Federation. That's right . . . the first of its kind anywhere that spoke directly to the people responsible for managing not only Canada's, but the world's farms.

That one fact alone should tell you where Canada's (one might even suggest the world's) primary agricultural producers sit in term of Y2K preparedness. They are only just getting started.


1. Farmers and farm managers need more information, farm-specific information, about the impact Y2K can have on their operations and the steps they can take to eliminate as much of the risk associated with that impact as possible.

2. Farmers and farm managers need greater access to the expertise required to fully assess the risks they face and to develop Y2K action plans to become prepared for the date roll-over.

3. Farmers, farm managers, and their families, many of whom live on the farms they own/operate, need to know that disruptions of essential services in rural and remote areas are being given due consideration by both government and the industries responsible for their delivery. The knowledge of higher risk, if it exists, is key to contingency planning.

4. Farmers and farm managers need more financial options available to them than the 100% capital cost allowance for the replacement of non-compliant equipment. Contingency preparation measures, such as the purchase of safe generators or back-up heating systems, should also be eligible for the 100% write-off, as should all or part of the professional fees required to hire outside expertise for the purposes of risk-assessment, equipment repair or replacement, and testing.

Canadian farmers, like the rest of their industry, can and must prepare for the problems associated with the Year 2000 computer bug. Awareness is the first step, and the industry is already actively involved in that effort. However, with less than a year to go before January 1, 2000, any assistance in ensuring that the foundation of our agriculture and agri-food industry, our food industry, is prepared for a productive season the following year would be more than welcome.

- Published Jan. 11, 1999

-- Bill (billdale@lakesnet.net), January 28, 1999

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