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“There is a crisis in agriculture,” admits Legault

Photo: Ryan Remiorz The Canadian Press Around twenty farmers waited for François Legault on Thursday morning in Henryville, in Montérégie, in front of a community center where the Prime Minister met elected officials from this agricultural region.

Stéphane Blais – The Canadian Press in Henryville

March 28, 2024

  • Quebec

The Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, now describes the difficulties facing Quebec farmers as a “crisis” and intends to help them more, in particular by relaxing certain rules and providing “financial assistance transition”.

Around twenty farmers waited for François Legault, Thursday morning in Henryville, in Montérégie, in front of a community center where the Prime Minister met elected officials from this agricultural region.

Some farmers who denounce inflation, regulations and falling incomes had used their agricultural machinery to attract the attention of the Prime Minister. “Agriculture, as a child, we dream of it, but as an adult, we die of it,” could be read on a sign transported by a tractor.

After a meeting with elected officials from the constituency, François Legault appeared in front of the demonstrators.

“I am very aware that the summer of 2023 has been catastrophic. I also know that inflation in inputs costs you dearly. Interest rate increases are expensive,” admitted the Prime Minister, indicating that Financière agricole will help them.

He was thus referring to the organization which ensures the production of farmers and which will pay a billion dollars to compensate for the 2023 losses of producers.

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Émilie Bellefroid, who produces large crops, market garden products and raises animals, but who struggles to pay a salary, explained to the Prime Minister “that with a minimum wage of $15.75 per hour for manual labor -work”, there “is no way to be competitive” with foreign agricultural producers “who pay their employees $6 a day.”

“It’s the same bunch of green onions, the same ton of corn, the same harvest” and “we’re just talking about wages, we’re not talking about all the inputs and all the others factors that come into account”, argued the farmer before asking the Prime Minister: “It's good to talk about it, but do you have a solution ? »

First of all, replied François Legault, “we have given help, but we will have to give more”, then, “in the medium term, the cost of labor will increase elsewhere too”, indicated the Prime Minister, adding that the Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, is “looking at” ways to “offer direct assistance for the transition”.

“Paper, you can’t feed yourself with it”

Farmers are also concerned about the changes proposed in an omnibus bill which concerns 24 regulations under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment, including the Regulation on agricultural operations (REA), the Code of management of pesticides, the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides as well as the Regulation respecting threatened or vulnerable plant species and their habitats.

These changes will force farmers to change the way they work.

“The deadlines for these changes are much too short,” explained Émilie Bellefroid, who complains, like the other farmers who accompanied her, about all the “paperwork” that producers have to complete every week.

“People are tired of doing paperwork. “We can’t feed ourselves with paper,” said the farmer.

Another farmer complained about having to spend a day each week entirely on “paperwork”.

Relaxation of the rules

Farmers denounce competition from producers from foreign countries where wages are lower, but also where environmental standards are less strict.

The prime minister referred to these grievances during a press briefing before meeting the farmers. “There is far too much paperwork, far too many regulations and it is difficult for Quebec producers to be competitive with Ontario and American producers, producers from other provinces or countries which have less strict environmental standards than those in Quebec. in Quebec,” he said.

François Legault therefore proposes “relaxing certain rules”, without specifying which ones, and also asks the federal government to intervene.

“I took the opportunity at the end of last week to talk about it with Justin Trudeau, because obviously it affects the federal government. Should we increase requirements on imported products ? Should we relax our rules ? I think we need to do both. »

During this press briefing, François Legault used the word “crisis” to talk about the situation in agriculture.

“I’m going to be very clear, there is a crisis in agriculture right now. »

Farmers are facing a disastrous drop in income and extreme weather events and protests have taken place in different regions of the province in recent weeks.

According to forecasts from the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Quebec's net agricultural income will increase from $959 million in 2022 to $66 million in 2024, unheard of since 1938.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116