Canadian farmers stepped up for their country. Now it’s time to support them.

Jul 08, 2020

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By: Bryce Eger
President, Corteva Agriscience Canada.

During a recent trip to the grocery store I found myself reflecting back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when worried shoppers were frantically stockpiling items. As I pulled from the crowded shelves and filled my cart with the usual weekly essentials and family favourites, I wondered how anyone could take Canadian farmers for granted.    
 
After all, while many businesses and industries came to a standstill, our farmers never stopped putting in long, hard hours to ensure Canada’s food supply went uninterrupted during one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history.  
 
Farming not only demands respect and admiration from Canadians coast-to-coast, it deserves increased government investment in the agricultural sector. In a recent University of Calgary report on Canada’s Food Security during the COVID-19 Pandemic, analyst Kerri L. Holland writes that “…government support of Canadian agriculture has so far been largely inadequate in alleviating the financial impact on farmers.”
 
She goes on to say that “…food security in Canada is not something to be taken for granted and government policy action must reflect the essential service agriculture provides for our nation.”
 
Canadian farmers are some of the most resilient, hard-working people I’ve ever met. They are extremely humble considering the crucial role they play in our food system and would be the last group to ask for federal handouts.
 
Unfortunately, insufficient policy support for Canadian farmers is quickly becoming a trend with the potential to undermine our national food security. While the federal government took steps in the right direction with a $252 million aid package aimed at helping the country’s agriculture and food industries through the pandemic, the May funding announcement fell well short of the $2.6 billion request made by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
 
Compounding the list of challenges facing Canadian farmers, the federal government recently decided to omit grain drying from the list of carbon tax exemptions.
 
Farmers dry their wheat, barley, corn, canola and other grains to ensure the highest-possible quality enters our food system. In 2019, wet fall and winter seasons resulted in grain dryers operating almost non-stop across much of the country. After spending more than $10,000 in carbon tax for the clean-burning propane and natural gas used to run their grain dryers, many farmers are now surprised by government estimates that carbon-tax costs would not exceed $819 per year per individual farm.
 
Having recently announced aggressive 10-year commitments to advance sustainability throughout the global food system, Corteva Agriscience applauds Canada’s government for taking strong climate action, but we also know that it’s critical to strike a balance between creating a sustainable environment and supporting a thriving agricultural sector without compromising on quality.   
 
Canada’s agriculture industry is projected to contribute more than $50 billion to our nation’s GDP by 2030, making it a larger sector than the country’s automobile assembly and aeronautic industries combined. To support this key pillar of our country’s economy and to secure our national and global food supply, industry and government decision-makers must listen to, and be willing to partner with, our farmers to provide meaningful future-focused solutions that don’t add additional stress on those who grow the food we all consume.
 
Excess carbon tax costs put growers, and our economy, in a no-win situation. By increasing costs on the farmers we rely on for a healthy, nutritious and affordable food system, we jeopardize the very industry we all need – because we all need to eat, after all.
 
The report I referenced earlier states that COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in the Canadian food supply chain resulting in reduced farm incomes and placed unprecedented economic stress on many producers. The author recommends that Ottawa “…take additional steps to reduce the financial burden on farmers by providing additional financial assistance, ensuring a more stable trade environment and developing a comprehensive, long-term, national agri-food strategy.”
 
While all these recommendations would go a long way in ensuring a strong and healthy agriculture sector, our farmers also deserve something else from the federal government – the benefit of the doubt when it comes to carbon tax costs.
 
As the original stewards of the land, farmers have a vested interest in preserving the land on which they make a living and they make constant adjustments to their property and processes to safeguard their investments against ever-shifting weather patterns and the negative effects of climate change. Therefore, when farmers dry their grain, it’s not out of convenience—it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.
 
As our world population continues to increase, so too will the demand for affordable, high-quality food. By making policy changes that demonstrate an unwavering commitment for our collective food security, Canada has an opportunity to be a world leader by ensuring the long-term viability and competitiveness of our farmers and our food supply.
 
Canadian farmers stepped up for their country over the past few months, as they always have - it’s something to keep in mind during your next trip to the supermarket. And it’s something our government should remember when working to find fair, sustainable solutions that work for our nation’s farmers, our Canadian economy and our future.
Source : Corteva Agriscience