COVID-19 has piled more stress upon already stress-filled farmers, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
That’s why it’s important for the federal government to find more support for producers hit by complications from the crisis.
“These are stressful and uncertain times for farmers,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s agriculture specialist.
In weekly surveys of its members, the CFIB has found increasing levels of stress among farmers. Livestock producers are obviously affected by slaughter plant shutdowns and slowdowns, but stress has been rife in farm country for months.
From last fall’s dreadful harvest in many areas, to ongoing issues with trade and the spring’s rail blockades, farmers have been grappling with a string of unfortunate situations.
COVID-19 has brought an array of specific problems, from blocking the arrival of foreign farm workers to backing up livestock on farms. But it’s the combination of problems that creates the general level of stress.
Seventy percent of its farmer-members say they’re worried about weakness in the Canadian and global economies weakening demand for farm products.
Cash flow is a worry for 53 percent. Debt is a concern for half, and 40 percent are worried about stress itself.
The labour problem has already hit numerous farms.
“Many farms have already had to make drastic changes to their production plans because of the delay in the arrival of temporary foreign workers,” said Braun-Pollon.
Of those farmers, 84 percent say they can’t find Canadians with skills or willingness to do that work, so there is no easy solution.
Braun-Pollon said farmers welcome the expansion of credit available from Farm Credit Canada and other lenders, as well as the extension of cash advance repayments, but “loan deferrals and extra lending capacity” won’t solve serious losses. Many farmers already have too much debt.
Livestock producers face massive losses if they aren’t helped more significantly than the recent federal aid package.
“We hope there’s more to come,” said Braun Pollon.
“Without additional emergency relief, a dire situation will get worse.”