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Benefits of Daylight Savings Time Doubtful for Farmers

Does Daylight Savings Time (DST) actually benefit farmers?

Not so, according to various historical reports about the origins of Daylight Savings Time. In fact, when some peace time nations tried to pass nation-wide seasonal time change laws more than a century ago, many farmers, notably in the United States and England, lobbied against it.

The idea of “springing the clocks forward” in March or April is believed to save energy and make better use of daylight. A British builder named William Willett first proposed a seasonal time change in 1905.

Port Arthur, Ontario, now part of Thunder Bay, created the world’s first DST on July 1, 1908. Three other Canadian cities followed suit: Regina on April 23, 1914; then Brandon and Winnipeg on April 24, 1916.

International attention to DST occurred in World War I when Germany and its ally, Austria, implemented it as a war time measure in 1916 to conserve lighting. England, France, the United States and a few other nations also adopted it.

Most countries dropped the practice at war’s end, but the notion persisted that having an extra hour to enjoy summer sunlight later into the evening meant one less hour to light, cool or heat homes – and give farmers more time in the fields.

But most farmers work around available sunlight during the growing and harvest seasons. And the two annual time changes disrupt dairy cows’ milking routines before the milk truck arrives at its usual time.

According to American journalist Michael Downing, who wrote a book on DST, that farmer opposition over the decades meant that the US never had a peacetime Daylight Saving Time until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966. Canada soon adopted its own DST.

It‘s commonly believed that this agrarian opposition forged the association between farmers and day light saving time.

In Canada, Yukon, all of Saskatchewan excepting the border town of Lloydminster, uses Standard Time year round. So do parts of British Columbia, Quebec and Nunavut.

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