Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 7, 2020
Farmers expected a miracle. No wonder they’re disappointed by Ottawa’s aid package
When the Canadian Federation of Agriculture laid out a $2.6-billion ask last week to help farmers endure the COVID-19 pandemic, they were setting the bar very high. And so it is little wonder that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Tuesday announcement of a program worth barely $252-million sent the farming community reeling.
Fair enough. The funding announcement was indeed underwhelming, and it will not be enough to get some of those on the precipice to stick around. Many will exit the industry, regrettably. Our preannouncement estimates were that as many as 15 per cent of our farms could be lost by year’s end due to COVID-19; Ottawa’s plans will not change that.
The $125-million program to support livestock raises a variety of questions. Executing the program will take time, something producers do not have. Few details were given about the role of provinces or how much farmers will receive. The measures presented will likely not prevent more animals from being euthanized in the days to come. Along with milk dumping, COVID-19 is serving up case studies on a silver platter for animal-rights activists. It’s a shame that our farmers have been put in this position.
Losing farms will not compromise our nation’s food security, however. Farmland doesn’t just disappear, as it can always be exploited by someone else. But the most significant concern is how we can create jobs and wealth in rural economies located far from urban centres. This should be a priority; occupying our vast nation’s topography should be top of mind, from coast to coast to coast. Ottawa doesn’t show that it cares for rural communities enough – or for agriculture, for that matter – but it should, before it’s too late.
Its response to farmers pleading for help was unsurprisingly slow as well. In the United States and Europe, most governments have provided pandemic-related financial aid directly to farmers weeks ago. In the United States, every American is providing $86 in support for agriculture by way of government-sanctioned programs; in Europe, it is over $90 per capita. Here in Canada, each of us giving six measly dollars to support agriculture. Farmers have every right to be disappointed. (Globe & Mail)