Farmers forgotten in COVID-19 government aid

NO OFF-FARM WORK = NO INPUTS = NO PLANTING = NO FOOD

Farmers forgotten in COVID-19 government aid

I don’t know what is going on with this. I hope it was an oversight and that it is not intentional. The Canadian government has rolled out money for other businesses, but not farmers. They are totally missing that farmers can only farm if they have off-farm income. Take the off-farm income away and they can’t afford to farm. The average farmer makes $129,000 per year but of that $110,000 is off-farm income that is used for inputs, cost of land etc. The government has been doing a census for farms for decades — they know this but they have done nothing to ensure farmers have money for inputs. The FCC [Farm Credit Canada] money is a joke — it only serves to ensure farmers don’t default on their existing debts.

NO OFF-FARM WORK = NO INPUTS = NO PLANTING = NO FOOD

I am a market gardener and I’ve lost my off-farm work. The logical thing for me to do is increase the size of land I am planting to help offset food shortages we might experience given our reliance on imported food and imported labour.

I attempted to access funds for inputs — seeds, row covers etc. — and I was shocked at what I found. The only program available to farmers is through the FCC. I emailed as soon as the agricultural subsidy was announced but I was told I would be contacted when they had time. When I did not receive an email, I called.

I found out I can “borrow” money at 4.45 per cent but that I need to begin repayment immediately and the loan is a short term loan of two years. They also said that if I applied online, the loan would not be processed in time for planting.

And if I were able to get the loan, how can I possibly make a payment this month when the crop is not even planted yet? How can I make a payment in December when I have no off-farm income?

This is in strong contrast to money that is available to businesses — readily available and interest free until 2022 with a forgivable portion.

Farms do not meet the criteria to apply for business funding as they cannot show an income drop from one month to another. Farms do not have income for more than a few months of the year, period.

I heavily subsidize my farm with off-farm income. I pay for my seeds, my greenhouse buildings, my utilities etc. from off-farm income and then I sell my bedding plants and vegetables priced to compete with big box stores. The truth is, I supply people with food and plants that are heavily subsidized by my free labour but also by my own off-farm income.

I thought my situation was likely unique to small farmers, but when I went and did the research, the numbers of farmers who rely on off-farm income are staggering and ever increasing. Depending on the province, I found numbers as high as 85 per cent. This is also true in the U.S.

Farmers use their own money for inputs.

We’ve lost our off-farm income.

We are not being offered easily available and inexpensive money to pay for inputs.

We are expected to take expensive loans that will literally be impossible to repay without off-farm income.

No off-farm income = no money for inputs.

No inputs = no planting.

No planting = no food.

Has this issue just been overlooked by our government?

Does the government actually think farmers have money for seeds, fertilizers etc.?

Is the government aware the FCC is actually saying don’t apply for input money online because it won’t be processed in time?

It is planting season now!

In China, they made getting money to farmers a priority.

Does the government have a secret store of stockpiled food? Or are they thinking that farmers should just take the risk, go further into debt in order to supply Canadians with food?

I could grow 10 acres of vegetables and deliver boxes to people weekly. I have the experience, the land, the knowledge — but I don’t have my off-farm income for inputs.

Canadians are about to wake up to the reality that farmers have not only been working their farms to grow food for Canadians, but they have been working off their farms to pay for the privilege of growing Canadians their food.

Apparently, despite all of the statistics gathered on agriculture in Canada, the government has not connected the dots on this either.

My fields will remain barren this year.

Susan Woollam

Duncan

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