The Guardian 13 April, 2005

Farmers march on Canada’s parliament

Darrell Rankin

After three years of record low farm income across Canada, Manitoba farmers marched on the legislature on April 11. The Keystone Agricultural Producers is inviting everyone who has an interest in farming and food to attend (details below). The average "realised net income" (RNI) per farm in Canada for 2003-2005 was $3734 per year. Farmers are increasingly compelled to find off-farm jobs to make ends meet, or else leave the land.

But there is lots of money in agriculture. If you own a large petroleum company, or a railway corporation or a fertiliser/herbicide company there are enormous profits to be made. Monopoly driven costs for farmers grow, but prices are dropping for most farm commodities as production techniques rapidly become more refined, at the expense of the environment, food industry workers and consumers.

In a joint report, The State of Agriculture in the Prairies, the three largest farm producers groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba say that prairie farms "are in a crisis mode".

The large majority of workers in the cities and rural areas have only a choice between expensive quality foods and food that is produced just for them — uniform, cheap as possible and with little nutritional value. Cheap food for workers means less demand for higher wages, but poor health in the long run.

Corporations are constantly attacking the remaining protections for the family farm, such as the Wheat Board. World Trade Organisation trade talks could deal more blows against agriculture in Canada, doing away with guarantees for the Wheat Board and purchasing policies by governments and their agencies.

Just to make up the historical average RNI deficiency for the last three years compared to 1993 to 2002, some $5.7 billion would have to found for farmers. Federal and provincial governments have given next to nothing.

These pro-corporate governments have no solution to the farm crisis and the loss of Canada’s food sovereignty to mainly US transnational corporations.

It is more than 25 years since the famous National Farmers Union sponsored "People’s Commission on the Food Industry" report identified the growing danger of monopoly control over agriculture by a small number of corporations operating in Canada.

The latest farm crisis has brought that warning into sharp focus, demanding increased support by people’s movements for a solution. These movements must campaign for policies that put family farms, the environment and food quality ahead of the profits of the giant corporations that dominate agriculture today.

People’s Voice

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