The Gleaner

Farmers are right to be frustrated

Now that the robust sugar harvest is nearing its end, producers are gearing up for the start of another growing season. Many are already tired. From tractor rallies in India to the spraying of police with manure in Europe, farmer protests have been headlining international news for weeks. Local farmers are about to add their voices to this growing cry for recognition, equitable remuneration, and fair regulatory requirements across markets.

The Fédération de l’UPA de la Montérégie is organizing demonstrations over the next few weeks to call attention to these crippling issues. Many farmers are worried about their bottom line this year, which is projected to plummet 86.5 per cent this year, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. But more than that, they are now worried about their ability to stay on the land, and the future of agriculture in Quebec. The costs of living and the impacts of climate change have resulted in devastating impacts on farms and farm families, and if producers were hoping for some relief in the recently announced budget, they came away empty handed.

Politicians continuously express concern about food security in Quebec but dedicate less than one per cent of projected annual spending to agriculture. The disconnect between the reality in the fields and the government is widening. On top of that, the paperwork involved with grant applications for government programs and all the regulatory requirements are wrapped so tightly in red tape, farming has become a part-time desk job.

We know our farmers are happy to be models in animal welfare and climate mitigation. For the most part, local producers are good stewards of their land. They are also caught in a system that requires constant investment to maximize productivity to compete with imported food, often grown where social and environmental standards are much lower. This model quickly loses its shine when farm debt soars to new heights due to rising interest rates and inflation. But if farmers stop investing, they lose their main competitive edge. It’s enough to make you want to take to the streets.

The closest protest will take place on April 13 in Vaudreuil. It’s a long drive by tractor, but a short car drive for local farmers and those who support them. It’s about time the government started listening. If the agriculture sector continues on this path and we lose our farmers, we will all go hungry.
Sarah Rennie

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