The Canadian Family Farm
"Canada’s agricultural system is
hostile to family farmers – the very people who form the backbone of our
food system. This crisis exposes this fundamental flaw."
1st woman to hold position of President of the National Farmers Union
Alison and Robert spent $500,000 on new farm machinery, they were
taking advantage of the record-low interest rates being offered by banks
eager to stimulate new spending in times of crisis.
this cheap credit made the acquisition easier, but a half-million dollar
purchase still constitutes a massive investment for a family farm. It’s
an audacious move, made at a time when family farms are particularly
Canada is one of the planet’s biggest food producers
and exporters. Yet the primary producers within this system - the
farmers themselves - are being elbowed out of the economy.
with the fluctuating dollar and international market forces beyond
their control, family farms are either disappearing or forced to expand
into economies of scale. But bigger farms mean deeper debts, as more and
more of the wealth generated by farming goes to agri-business.
for cash, farmers are often forced to find second jobs. And when the
manure hit the global economic fan last fall...well, a difficult
situation got worse.
Our agricultural system is a relatively
recent invention. During the Second World War, responding to calls from a
devastated Europe, Canada worked hard to boost its agricultural output.
After the war, the sector was further transformed by industrialization
and the widespread introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
- substances initially developed for chemical warfare. As early as the
1950s, family farms were beginning to lose ground to large-scale
agri-business interests - a process that continues to this day.
But the system has growing numbers of critics... and new models of food production and consumption are starting to take root.
Some facts & figures:
1/ Less Canadian farms :
- 1996: 276,548
- 2000: 246,923
- 2006: 229,373
2/ Less farmers under the age of 35:
- 1991 : 77 910 / 19,9%
- 1996 : 61 055 / 15,8 %
- 2001 : 39 915 / 11,5 %
This represents a drop of 48.8% between 1991 and 2001
3/ Increased debt load:
The total debt of Quebec farmers grew by 28% between 2001 and 2005, from $8.1 billion to $10.4 billion.
Sources: National Union of Farmers
, Statistics Canada; Le Devoir, July 8, 2006