Column: Canadian farmers fall victim to rotten political harvest

By Brian Hickey

Less than a month after gushing out clouds of thick diesel exhaust and littering the streets of downtown Ottawa with their John Deere tractors, Canadian farmers concerns continue to remain ignored and unimportant.

Their “Day of Action” on March 14 was supposed to show Canadians how desperate they really were and how badly they needed more government assistance. Instead politicians continue wasting their time on the age-old Shawinigan affair.

Maybe it’s time Canadian farmers forget about their endless string of unsuccessful rallies and get down to serious business. They can’t really afford a strike, but they could follow the example set by an organization like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). When OPEC wants higher prices, they simply cut oil production and make their product more valuable.

So, get ready fellow Canadians, because the price of bread just doubled and all the milk just disappeared from your local store. That’s right, farmers could unite and control a commodity that we all need — food.

It doesn’t make sense that the people who produce the food are given so little attention. Not many other people drag themselves out of bed at five in the morning and work relentlessly until dusk. Farmers represent one of the hardest working groups in society and are part of our rich agriculture history.

In reality, however, the word “rich” is probably the furthest thing that could be used to describe Canadian farmers these days. It’s no secret that most of them end up losing more and more money each year.

It’s becoming harder for Canadian farmers to profit because they are facing low subsidies and a deck that is heavily stacked against them. Recent reports say receive average subsidies of $19,400 per farm while Canadian farms receive only $7,500.

At the same time, the prices for products such as corn are set in the United States. This means heavily subsidized American farmers can ask for much less than Canadian farmers — who are then forced to lower prices just to compete.

Throw in the hidden costs for the basics like seeds, fuel and fertilizers, and farmers are left stranded in debt.

And it doesn’t look like the government is willing to lend a helping hand. According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the annual federal budget for agriculture was over $2 billion in 1993 and has since been reduced $600 million. In the meantime, production costs have also risen nearly $200 million over the last seven years.

The harsh reality of the situation is that farming is also a risky business. Imagine spending all your time and money harvesting a crop for several months, only to see it wasted if the weather doesn’t co-operate.

People forget that Canada has some of the best quality food at the lowest prices. Wouldn’t it make sense to help our farmers rather than allow another pillar of Canadian pride to crumble right before their eyes?