|A farmer works a potato field in North Tryon, P.E.I. in this July 13, 2000 photo. CP|
A board member for the National Farmers Union says without laws that support decent farm livelihoods, Canada could lose its next generation of farmers.
Matt Gehl, board member for Saskatchewan, says the country could end up with something like “the serfdom many of our ancestors tried to escape.”
On Tuesday, the NFU released an update to its 2010 report on corporate farmland buyup, farm debt and input financing.
The new report, called “Losing Our Grip — 2015 Update,” looks at increasing corporate control of farmland and the acceleration of farm debt, now approaching $80 billion.
Gehl says young farmers not only have to compete with pension funds and other huge institutional investors in the land market, they also face huge life-time debt loads to pay for land and equipment.
Reg Phelan, a board member for the Maritimes, says making farming a liveable occupation can be accomplished.
“We know that land is the foundation of our culture and social fabric, and here in Prince Edward Island, we’ve been able to limit the amount of land owned by big Canadian companies and off-shore bargain hunters,” he says.
“We’ve had to push back against the corporations to protect our land, but the fact that we’ve got a good land protection law now shows that it can be done.”
NFU president Jan Slomp says Canadians want family farmers to produce their food and have the autonomy to do it in a way that supports their communities and takes care of the land for future generations.
“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,” says Slomp.
“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.”