Our governments put farmers at risk

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Even though farm fields are still covered with snow, farmers are busy planning for spring planting, repairing and upgrading farm machinery, feeding animals, counting on a good, productive year, and looking at their financial situation. We all appreciate the continuous work of farmers to deliver healthy and affordable food, and we realize the need for sound agricultural policies that support them. Unfortunately, it often seems that provincial and federal politicians don’t appreciate this need for clear, and meaningful policies to support the agricultural sector.
The first issue is that agriculture is a shared jurisdiction between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and they all have different priorities.
An example is our dairy industry. Following World War II, many countries became concerned about agricultural self-sufficiency and provided massive
subsidies to farmers. This resulted in over-production of certain things, especially dairy products. In Canada, the response wasn’t subsidies but rather guaranteed quotas that meant restrictions on dairy imports. This policy was fully supported by the Québec government which took further steps to promote dairy products. However, Canada has sought general trade agreements with other countries, especially the USA and the European Union; these countries insisted Canada open its dairy market to theirsubsidized (and therefore cheaper) products. So, we have a provincial government giving strong support to dairy producers while the federal government does the opposite.
In Québec, the provincial government enacts policies that are generally advantageous to farm stability, but the process is often so complex that farmers need to become professional paper pushers rather than focus on being good food producers.