I'll have something to say about the new trade agreement when more details are available. However, I understand that Canada's farmers will make concessions under the deal. I'm a city kid. But for forty-five of my seventy one years, my neighbours have been farmers. And a new study concerns me. Kelsey Johnson writes:
Canadian farmers are dangerously stressed out, a reality that’s putting this country’s farm families, rural communities, and entire agriculture industry at risk.
“We can’t have a sustainable food system in Canada if we don’t have sustainable farmers,” Andria Jones-Bitton, an associate professor from the University of Guelph who specializes in farmers’ mental health, told the House agriculture committee on Sept. 27.
When we lived in the Eastern Townships, I got to know several dairy farmers. They were stressed out by milk quotas. But they also understood that those quotas made them sustainable. It sounds like the quota system will be altered -- whether for better or worse remains to be seen.
One statistic is particularly troubling:
It’s estimated Canada’s farm community sees 20 to 30 per cent more suicides compared to other sectors. While Canadian data are limited, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. found the risk of suicide among farmers was five times higher than for the average American.
In June, Michael Hoffort, the president of Farm Credit Canada (this country’s main agricultural lender) told MPs that in two and a half months, the credit union had already provided emergency funding to 67 families – eight of which involved suicides.
Farmers carry crushing debt loads. And, if they perceive they will never get out from under them, suicide may seem like the only option.
What's to be done?
Coordination between provinces, health professionals and agricultural experts, [Jones-Britton] said, is critical. Programs, she stressed, “need to actually work,” and be designed so that farmers will actually use them.
Those delivering the programs, [she] added, must understand agriculture in order to gain farmers’ trust. Prevention is also critical.
Let's hope Canada's farmers haven't been hung out to dry. A farmer's lot can be perilous.