MPs meet agriculture leaders, hear of growing stress among farmers

Farmers under pressure

Farming is an industry fraught with challenges – from mounting expenses to increasing taxes and unpredictable weather.

But those on the front lines of the agriculture industry are paying a heavy toll to keep the nation fed.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold and visiting MP John Barlow, the Tories' shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food, were in Armstrong Friday to meet with farming representatives.

Barlow says one of the main concerns he heard was the cost of doing business – inflation, the rising price of fertilizer, the carbon tax, and other expenses.

“Those are certainly having an impact on their costs, and if they are not economically sustainable they can't be environmentally sustainable and feed Canadians,” Barlow said.

Farmers are being priced out of the industry, he charged, which is impacting consumers with increasing food costs.

Barlow said when the carbon tax is next increased, which is scheduled to happen April 1, it will again cost farmers more to produce our food.

The increases aren't just having a financial impact.

Arnold says he has been hearing a growing chorus of mental health concerns from the industry.

“A lot of these farms have huge debt loads and the rising interest rates are a large concern for them,” said Arnold.

“Canadian agriculture has some of the best standards in the world, but we always have to be showing that, proving that on the international stage. That comes back to the farmers and producers to make sure they are meeting those standards,” said Arnold. “They are always under that microscope.”

Barlow said many farmers feel like they are being attacked.

“They are doing everything they possibly can to improve their water, improve their soil, take care of their animals. They want to have the best possible products they can, but when you keep piling on carbon taxes, fertilizer-emissions reduction policies, fertilizer tariffs, higher transportation costs, plus protesters and activism – they just feel like they are being attacked from all different angles, and that is very stressful.

“You can really sense their frustration that they do everything possible to be good stewards of the land and for some reason instead of being recognized and celebrated for that, they are punished for it.”

Arnold said the stigma surrounding mental health must addressed, especially among men, as the majority of farms are operated by males.

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