Wheat growers upset with feds

Wheat growers upset with feds
May 15, 2020

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association representatives feel the federal government is not helping farmers address important issues

Staff Writer

The federal government has forgotten about grain farmers and their concerns, says the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

Wheat growers are affected by seven major issues: the carbon tax, the environment, international trade, business risk management programs, crop insurance, transportation and broadband, the association said in a recent op-ed. The government should find solutions to these problems, the organization added.

“The government keeps saying ‘We're here for you. Keep working away and we'll work at some of these issues that you have.’ Yet, they never do,” said Gunter Jochum. He’s the president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

International trade disruptions have cost Canadian farmers $4 billion over the last four years, the organization stated in the op-ed.

“We've been dealing with the government on that for four years. We've been saying ‘Come on, this needs to be fixed. Farmers can't operate like this,’” Jochum told Farms.com.

The association is also concerned about the federal government imposing the carbon tax on farmers. This move ignores the fact that farmers are net-zero carbon emitters, the op-ed said.

“I wish the government would realize that farmers have been environmental stewards for years. We're early adopters of auto steer, GPS, precision seeding and fertilizer placement, data gathering, and zero-till or no-till planting. In other words, we eliminate passes across the field. Right there, we're already lessening the impact on the environment in our businesses,” Jochum said.

Farmers are also challenged by the business risk management programs and crop insurance, as the available programs aren’t helpful, he said.

“For example, we estimate only about 30 per cent of farmers are signed up for AgriStability because it simply doesn’t work. Even if you happen to have a crop bad enough that would trigger a payment, it can take up to 18 months before you can collect. It's a very cumbersome program,” he said.

Transportation for agricultural commodities and broadband have also become major problems for farmers, especially in the last few months, said Jochum.

Early this year, railway blockades caused a huge backlog of grain exports. Now, more people are working from home because of COVID-19. The situation places more pressure on the already weak Internet and cellphone infrastructure in rural communities across the Prairies.

“With the pandemic, we're supposed to home school our kids. We're supposed to do everything online and we don't have reliable broadband. We don't have reliable Wi-Fi. I farm 20 minutes west of Winnipeg, and I don't even have cell service in my house. I drop calls all the time,” said Jochum.

“These are some very basic things that the government could step up and make lives better for everyone, not just farmers. More than farmers live in the rural areas.”

The organization’s representatives constantly receive calls on these issues. While the team is pushing the government to makes changes, the association representatives aren’t the ones who can make the final calls, said Jochum.

“As a farmer, I can't go to India or China and sign trade deals. That's what the federal government is here for, that's what the trade minster is here for,” Jochum said.

The association representatives hope, through their lobbying efforts, to increase dialogue with government officials and reach solutions for the issues the ag industry faces, he said.

“I hope that somebody at government reads this, is interested in it, contacts us and gets together with us or other farm groups. Let’s hammer this out,” he said. “Help us to become even stronger and better. Maybe we can collectively get through this pandemic.”

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