Better government farm support urged as rough winter looms

Farm leaders say governments have to provide better risk management tools after a stressful 2019.

Inadequate business risk management programs and unresolved geopolitical trade issues, along with unfavourable weather, combined for a rocky year.

“It has really come down to a mental health issue,” said Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell. “There is tremendous stress in the rural communities.”

Speaking during a panel session at the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan annual meeting, Campbell said it appears farmers have no protection.

“We look at the tools that we have in the toolbox and BRM may not be one of them. And crop insurance may not be one of them. With the election, the federal government may not be one of them,” he said. “The reality starts to hit home when you cannot market your crop and pay your bills.”

Calls to farm stress lines are up in several provinces. Campbell said KAP has heard from teachers that they can identify farmers’ children because they too are carrying the stress.

“This winter is going to be a great challenge for agriculture,” he said.

Farm organizations have called for better BRM programs for years.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture vice-president Keith Currie, who also heads the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said the programs must suit farmers’ needs, “not suit the needs of the bureaucrats writing the rules.”

He said he met last May with then-Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to talk about the stress farmers were facing over China blocking some canola imports.

“She looked at me and said, ‘we also have to keep in mind that we have a couple of people in China that could lose their lives,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘you’ve got hundreds of people out West who might take their own if you don’t do something.’ ”

Alberta Federation of Agriculture president Lynn Jacobsen said programs must take individual sectors of agriculture into account.

“One size does not fit all.”

APAS president Todd Lewis said his organization has been trying to hammer home that AgriStability doesn’t work for mixed farms.

Farmers need protection that ensures they don’t suffer losses for market disruptions, Campbell added.

He said bureaucrats resist attempts to modernize BRM programs but farmers won’t survive without something that works.

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