Friday, May 24, 2024

Western Quebec farmers descend on Gatineau, demand more support | CBC News

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Farmers from western Quebec drove tractors into the city of Gatineau, Que., on Wednesday, joining a provincewide protest over concerns about rising costs and the future of family farms.

Organized by the Union des producteurs agricoles, the protest drew roughly 60 protesters who parked their vehicles on boulevard de la Carrière in front the Casino du Lac-Leamy.

With mounting financial pressures in the industry, Wakefield, Que., cattle farmer Gib Drury said he worries his grandchildren won’t be able to afford to take over the farm.

“The three grandchildren just love farming. They go out every day to watch the cattle with my son in our little runaround. They love the life, and we hope they’ll be able to continue, but it’s a fond wish,” said Drury, who’s run the farm for the past 45 years.

“If we can’t make it ourselves as grandparents, what are the grandkids going to do?” 

Many of the protesters voiced concerns about the farming market, from industry-wide price increases to a lack of aid from all levels of government.

Around 40 tractors were parked on the side of the road during the protest. (Zenith Wolfe/CBC)

John McCart, president of the Quebec Farmers’ Association, said he’s concerned about the loss of farmland to urban encroachment.

“I know a lot of people have respect for the farmers, but we can’t operate on good wishes,” he said.

In a 2021 census of agriculture report, Statistics Canada recorded around 190,000 farms across the country, down from around 245,000 in 2001.

Over that same period, the country’s total farmland decreased by about eight per cent.

Woman stands in front of her John Deere tractor during protest
Cheryl Layer says the revenues on her farm haven’t increased in 30 years. (Zenith Wolfe/CBC)

‘You shouldn’t have to work two jobs’

The growing price of feed and fuel have also made it hard to maintain competitive prices, said Carole Laplante, who raises lambs and grows raspberries and blueberries at her farm in Gatineau.

Farmers are increasingly turning to second jobs to make up the rest of their income, she said.

“It makes it difficult on your family livelihood,” said Laplante. “You shouldn’t have to work two jobs.”

That was seconded by Cheryl Layer, a fourth-generation farmer who fears her children won’t be able to afford taking over her farm, where revenues haven’t increased in 30 years.

“I’m pretty attached to my homeland, so it’s pretty important that [the farm] stays in the family,” Layer said.

A speaker stands on a stage in front of a crowd of protestors and their tractors.
Around 60 protesters gathered on the road near the Casino du Lac-Leamy to hear speeches from farming representatives. (Zenith Wolfe/CBC)

Laplante said she wants to see both provincial and federal governments create more funding opportunities with fewer stringent requirements.

In a statement to the Radio-Canada, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food wrote the government appreciated farmers’ concerns and said food producers could apply to an emergency fund it created last year. 

A group of people holding up signs on the side of the street.
Carole Laplante (far left) joined her fellow farmers to protest on the side of Boulevard de la Carrière. (Zenith Wolfe/CBC)

André Fortin, the Liberal MNA for Pontiac, joined the farmers, imploring the Quebec government to fix its insurance programs for lost crops. 

“There are farmers who lost 85 to 90 per cent of their harvest last year [and] who got maybe 15 to 20 per cent compensation,” Fortin said.

“They won’t be able to go through a second year like that.”

The protest lasted a little over two hours, with farmers vowing to return louder next time if their concerns are not addressed.

A 2024 Statistics Canada report predicted this year’s net income from farms across the country will fall 14 per cent to $21.3 billion, although that would still make it the fourth-best year on record.

 

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