Next generation of Canadian farmers could be lost

Mar 11, 2015

Land could be too expensive to maintain and bought up by private investors

By Diego Flammini,

If laws don’t come to the defence of Canadian farm livelihoods, the next generation of farmers could be lost, according to someone from the National Farmers Union.

Matt Gehl, a member of the National Farmers Union (NFU) from Saskatchewan told the Canadian Press the country could resemble “the serfdom many of our ancestors tried to escape.” Serfdom, of course, is another word for slavery.

This comes after the NFU released an update to their initial report in 2010 called “Losing Our Grip.” The update, entitled “Losing Our Grip – 2015 Update,” that looked at increased corporate control (industrial farms), and national farm debt being upwards of $80 billion.

The report discusses land-grabbing, Canadian farmland as a target for investors and farm debt as just some of the issues threatening the future of Canadian farmers.

Land-grabbing is just that, corporations and investors buying up the Canadian farmland for their own operations, leaving very little for the personal, family-owned farm. Investors see the fertile Canadian land as a way to protect their wealth with generally low interest rates.

The report states farmland values have increased since 2008. In Saskatchewan, average value rose from $453/acre to about $881/acre while in Ontario, average land and building value went from $4,593/acre to $8,417/acre.

Canadian farm debt has steadily risen from $64 billion in 2010 to about $78 billion by the middle of 2013.

Jan Slomp, president of the NFU says without backup for the Canadian farmers, they could see their land disappear out of their control.

"Without better farm policy and laws with real teeth, absentee landlords seeking to make the highest possible return for their shareholders will be calling the shots," he told the Canadian Press. “"The work of farming will be done by low-paid seasonal employees or farmers forced to lease land, making it difficult for them to make long-term investments to care for the land."

Join the discussion. What is your opinion on some of the report’s findings about Canadian farmland in the future?