When are Canadians going to stop taking Canadian farmers for granted?
They work hard, get paid very little, and provide a very valuable service to the Canadian economy, and the health of Canadians.
Think about the fresh corn, apples and wide variety of fruits and vegetables that you buy in the grocery store. Think of the grains and milk that goes into making your bread and your cereal.
Plus all the meat that was the result of farmers and butchers.
Years ago it was always the butcher who becomes rich (or at least upper middle class), not the farmer.
Today, its the companies which buy the meats, milk, fruits, vegetables and grains from the farmers, and its those companies whom become wealthy by paying extremely low prices for the produce, and then up the prices. The grocery stores are also equally to blame for their profiteerism.
And its only getting worse.
Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada now imports a portion of its food from the United States, Mexico, South America, Africa, Asia, Russia and Europe. And that portion is starting to become very large.
Its gotten to the point where people don't WANT to be a farmer. They go bankrupt too easily if there's a bad crop, or in the case of political situations like that 1 cattle that had Mad Cow disease (a cattle that was originally bought in the United States) and suddenly the U.S. stops taking our beef exports (and has continued to do so for 4 years now).
On the latter topic, the Canadian beef market has almost collapsed and yet our own government has done little to retaliate. We are still bringing in beef from the United States and Brazil, while our own beef and milk markets are being hurt economically. And all the while, there is NOTHING wrong with Canadian beef or milk, its all tested before its even butchered/etc.
SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE TO GIVE FARMERS A FAIR SHARE!
And it wouldn't take much to set things on the right track.
Option #1: Make it so that farmers don't have to pay income tax on e-file (unless they grow tobacco, for obvious reasons). Just let them make as much money on farming as they can, because its really very little anyway. And in a very real sense, it also evens the grounds because the Amnish Mennonites don't pay income tax either. Its not like there is many farmers left in Canada anyway and that little extra money will go a long way. The majority of Canadian family farms make less than $25,000 Canadian per year. Note the word "family", meaning thats $25,000 to raise your kids, pay the mortgage, car bills, electricity, the whole freaking works! This puts them in the less than $33,375 tax bracket [I am using Ontario income tax for reference.], so they are paying 16% federal income tax and 6.05% provincial income tax. Thats 22.05% of $25,000. Thats only $19,487.50 per year, and thats only if they were lucky to make $25,000 per year, what if they make a lot less? A family of 4 CANNOT live on such a small amount of money (and I know what some city people are thinking, that these farmers could simply eat their own cattle, chickens, pigs, fruits and vegetables and save a lot of money that way... but I'm sorry, not all Canadian farmers are Amnish and even have all that, and furthermore most of those things have to butchered/processed before they can be made into edible food. Eating raw beef or oats is not healthy.)
Option #2: A "Farmer's Minimum Wage", meaning that the companies that buy the produce/meats from the farmers must pay at least so much for the products AND furthermore that at least 60% of all produce they buy MUST be bought from Canadian farmers. This is not unlike the Canadian Film Industry, the CBC/etc which is forced to show a percentage of "Canadian Content" and movies that were made in Canada. This method of boosting the Canadian Film Industry has been quite successful when we look at the world and see that a very large percentage of foreign films also use Canadian actors, directors, cameramen, etc. Especially in the United States, where roughly 38% of professional actors/etc are Canadians (or former Canadians). While its true this will never be the same for Canadian Farmers, the idea of companies being forced to buy a percentage of Canadian produce still has merit. Another option would be to give those companies a tax incentive for doing so, so that companies that already use 100% Canadian produce get a boost and other companies are encouraged to do the same.
Option #3: Mandatory Contracts. Currently, some farmers have contracts with various companies (sometimes contracts with the government) in which they grow their crops/livestock and sell them to the companies at a pre-set rate as designated in the contract. This rate is regardless of what happens in the farmers economy (drought, flood, low prices, pestilence) and regardless of the yield of the crop. So even if it was a bad year, the farmer is still guaranteed a specific amount for their crops/livestock and thus is guaranteed to keep making their mortgage payments/etc. However, it also means that if it was a really good year and the crop is great, they company still gets the crop/livestock at the same price (which is overall very good for the company, who makes lots of money processing it and reselling it anyway). So in the end, its good for the companies, and its stability for the farmers. Obviously there should be a mimimum wage for contracts in this situation as well, because some farmers might not be able to cope otherwise. In which case, the company or farmer always has the option to broker a deal with a different company or farmer.
Option #4: A Farmers Union. This idea has been talked about for years but has never been able to get off the ground. During the 1950s a group of farmers in the United States tried to start a farmers union but it was quickly stamped out by the big companies and by people claiming they were "evil communists" trying to destroy the United States. Rubbish! A Farmers Union has been very successful in the past in Europe and continues to grow. Farmers in Europe are considerably better paid these days (but the prices of food in Europe is also slightly higher). Some African countries have also set up state-run or privately run Farmers Unions in order to prevent being taken advantage of by large companies from the United States. Another possibility is for the Farmers Union to be an actual political party, representing farming and fishing communities from across Canada. Leave ideas of war and whether abortion should be legal up to the other political parties, meanwhile the farming communities (which make up a very large percentage of the voting ridings in Canada) could finally have a proper say in what they want. And after they ensure a fair share, then it will be time for the Farmers Union to retire (until they are needed again).
Option #5: All or Parts of the Above Ideas.
I would also like to point out, since I mentioned fishing above briefly, that fishermen and fisheries should also get some benefits out of this too and be treated on equal footing with farmers. Indeed, fishermen in Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia provide the bulk of ALL fish for North America, and yet they are paid diddly squat. Even less than farmers are paid. Any ideas of erasing income tax/etc for farmers should also include fishermen.
I was raised on a farm, and while I do now live in Toronto, I have nothing but respect for the hardworking farmers and fishermen and their families from across Canada and even outside of Canada. They get paid so little and yet are in many ways more vital to the Canadian way of life than doctors and free healthcare. They don't just deserve to be paid more, they deserve our respect and gratitude.