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Farmers stage protest, demand government support

A convoy of more than 105 tractors left Saint-Clet for Vaudreuil on April 10, as part of a demonstration staged by more than 250 frustrated producers over the looming crisis in agriculture and government inaction.

Several Valley producers made the trek, most by car or pickup, to add their voices to what became a resounding cry for the government to put a stop to the pressure mounting on farmers.

Protesting producers called on the government for better support, regulatory relief, a reduction in red tape and bureaucracy, a review of agricultural financing, and the introduction of fair environmental, health, and economic standards that will allow farmers to remain competitive in international markets.

Jérémie Letellier, the president of the Fédération de l’Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) de la Montérégie, admitted to the crowd that he was taken aback by the number of tractors, while suggesting he had underestimated the level of frustration farmers were experiencing and their support for the growing protest movement.

“Our current governments take us for granted,” said Letellier. “If agriculture were important to our governments, there would be no foreign products on our shelves at a fraction of the cost of production for our producers. There would be true reciprocity of standards. If agriculture were important to our governments, there wouldn’t be a mountain of red tape and bureaucracy, there would be regulatory relief!” he exclaimed, to rousing applause and cheers from the crowd.

Letellier was joined by the presidents from local UPA syndicates, including Beauharnois-Salaberry, the Haut-Saint-Laurent, the Jardins-de-Napierville, Roussillon, and Vaudreuil-Soulanges. He was also flanked by Martin Caron, the general president of the UPA, as well as representatives from the Association de la relève agricole de la Montérégie, and several producers who spoke on behalf of their respective agricultural sectors.

The protest in Vaudreuil was the second in a trio of demonstrations that took place last week. A convoy of over 220 tractors rolled through the streets of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on April 5, where over 400 producers gathered in front of the office Louis Lemieux, the MNA for Saint-Jean. Another 160 tractors made their way through the city of Saint-Hyacinthe on April 12, passing by the office of Chantal Soucy, the MNA for Saint-Hyacinthe, before joining a rally staged by over 300 producers and young farmers.

 

Several producers from the Haut Saint Laurent joined the more than 250 farmers gathered in Vaudreuil on April 10 to voice their frustration at the lack of government support in the face of a mounting crisis in the provinces agriculture sector PHOTOS Sarah Rennie

“It is the local unions who are building this movement,” said Éric Leboeuf, the president of the Haut-Saint-Laurent UPA syndicate. “The important thing is to have more recognition from the government. It’s not normal for people to eat three times a day but less than one percent of the budget is allocated to agriculture,” he pointed out.

“We are being asked to be more and more accountable. The administrative tasks are heavy, and they take up a lot of our time and resources when we already know how to feed people,” he said. “We do it well. We take care of the environment. We have ways of doing things that are getting better and better. We are the solution!” he exclaimed, insisting it is not the government putting action into place.

Leboeuf’s words were echoed by Ange-Marie Delforge, the president of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges UPA syndicate, who said she was moved but concerned to see so many producers gathered in protest. “We are professionals in agriculture, but the government does not recognize us as such!” she exclaimed, lamenting, “We are far from a priority.”

Hinchinbrooke-based dairy producer Noel Erskine was among the crowd waving a rally sign demanding more support for young farmers. Having taken over his family’s farm two years ago, he said things are going well, but it’s hard work balancing increased expenses with productivity.

“We are a dairy farm, and as a collective we’ve decided that consumers want us to go in a certain direction in terms of animal welfare and how their food is produced. That doesn’t come without a cost. It requires investment, and with investment comes interest rates,” he sighed. “We are just looking for the government to make sure they have our back, because it feels like they haven’t been helping as much as they should,” Erskine added.

Also waving a sign was Josée Lajeunesse, an outspoken advocate for mental health services for farmers and co-owner of the Domaine du Paysan nursery and garden centre in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka. “We’ve come to the point where we spend more time in the office than in the field or greenhouses,” she said. “At some point, well, it’s exhausting!” she exclaimed. “And if the farmer is not doing well, their mental health takes a mean hit. And that’s what needs saving too. We must save our farmers,” she added.

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