Monday, October 01, 2018

A Farmer's Lot

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.

Image: Telegraph-Journal


the salamander said...

.. I wish I could find a document that encompassed the following farm aspects - it would be fantastic if such a document, essay or book connected those same aspects to the new nafta (USMCA ?) agreement as well as how 'farming' has evolved over the passage of time - say the last 50 years.

So the 'aspects' - which really must be broadened into 'agriculture'
Let's start with Poultry which is lumped together under 'Dairy'. Its as if we neither eat eggs, chicken or turkey according to lazy assed Mainstream Media. Were they on the table & negotiated ?
How about Beef? On the table ?
Did Pork on our Forks make the negotiating table ?
I could go on, skipping the iconic black & white Dairy Cow chewing its cud, and skipping Veal
Honey ? Yes that thing bees make. Maple Syrup.. And what about Farmed Salmon (or does being mainly foreign owned exclude it?) Oh did I forget vegetables? (FYI I only eat Ontario sweet corn in season, canned or frozen Canadian corn otherwise)

Now on to Secondary Product.. like cheese, frozen & processed meats, bacon, smoked farmed salmon (and why is farmed salmon under Agriculture Ministry, but family owned & run Cultivated Shellfish are not?) Breakfast cerials or bagels - made from grain,

Finally on to the Evolutions in Agriculture that underlie and are foundation.. re 'farms' per se, high % of poultry farms are diversified & yet may hew to traditional mixed farming as well. The poultry feed is not home grown, but those hayfields, grain, corn fields, blue glass lined silos, pole barns betray something else happening too. Dairy per se ie maintaining a milking herd is slipping beyond generic recognition. Tight margins, intensive labour despite certain new & complex technologies, shrinking family models etc make 'dairy' one of the most intensive farming enterprises (and takes more than just family). One can't forget that a 'dairy' farm may require 200 - 400 acres of corn alone... let's say to milk a lactating herd of 60 - 100 of freshened cows and heifers. And yes.. there is the veal. Just managing the field prep, planting, spraying, harvest of corn, equipment maintainance would baffle most humans.

With a spare field or three, a farmer might grow a cash crop like Canola as well. Drive through southwestern Ontario and its harder and harder to spot 'traditional' barns re beef, dairy or poultry. Great local labour is also hard to find.. and the growing up kids are tired of the 7 days a week 4:30 AM wakeups and days that may go way late..

WE need to stay aware that 'The Agreement' includes myriad other sectors.. auto, steel, manufactured goods.. you name it. But for now it seems 'dairy' and that black & white cow is the pinata or getting the most mention.. and must get Canada & its middle class to the nirvana of 'growing the economy' & a 'closer partnership' with the USA.. Argh ..

Owen Gray said...

There used to be an entity called "the family farm," sal. But now it's all about "agri-business." And the poor stiffs wo are trying to make a living on family farms are being put out of business because the don't fit into the new way that things are done.

I suspect the deal -- such as it is -- favours "agri-business."