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“We cannot even break even,” farmer tells MPs industry needs help surviving downturn

A collapse in prices caused by the coronavirus means that many grain farmers have no chance of making money this year.

With no help coming from the Trudeau government, the Grain Farmers of Ontario warned MPs that the future of the agriculture sector looks bleak.

The President of the organization Markus Haerle told the agriculture committee earlier this week that a collapse in prices caused by the coronavirus means that many grain farmers have no chance of making money this year.

Haerle, himself a farmer, told MPs that the pandemic has created “risks that are bigger and more current than I have ever experienced in my farming career.” 

“We are at a point that we cannot even break even,” he said.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario recently launched a campaign to educate the public on the plight farmers are facing. The group notes that American farmers have received $22 billion in aid from their government while Canadian farmers have gotten very little.

“Our grain farmers cannot compete with farmers who are able to survive these low prices with support from their government. The U. S. farmer is our direct competitor,” Haerle told MPs.

“Now we are in crisis. Prices of all our commodities are below the amount of money that we have spent to grow those crops.”

The Grain Farmers of Ontario have noted that Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been a strong advocate for farmers, but without interest from the federal government, there is little Ford can do.

The federal-provincial agriculture ministers’ meeting, scheduled for mid-July, has been postponed to the fall. Without this meeting, no meaningful federal-provincial agreements can be made.

“I think it would be very important for the Canadian government to show leadership through this crisis, show what it is willing to offer up, and I’m nearly sure that the provincial governments will actually sign on to the programming that would be proposed,” Haerle said. 

Farmers have also been trying to show the government that the carbon tax is causing their businesses to suffer.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau claims that the average carbon tax bill for farmers is around $200-800. But farmers have repeatedly told the government that this estimate ignores many of the costs associated with farming.

Many grain farmers have seen carbon tax bills of $2,000-20,000 for drying their grain.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture estimated that at least $2.6 billion would be needed to keep the agriculture sector intact during the pandemic.

Haerle fears that without assistance Canada risks permanently losing food security.

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