Quebec farmers demand action amidst increasing financial strain

Rebel News reporter Alexa Lavoie speaks with dairy producer François Pigeon about the most pressing issues facing farmers in Quebec.

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Quebec's agricultural sector is facing unprecedented challenges, with farmers voicing their concerns and demanding urgent action from the government. François Pigeon, a dairy producer and administrator of the UPA Bas-Saint-Laurent, shed light on the struggles faced by Quebec's farmers in an exclusive interview.

Pigeon highlighted a myriad of issues contributing to the distress among farmers. "It's an accumulation over the years of regulations, restrictions, and non-competitive market entries," he stated. "Interest rates, inflation which is much higher in agriculture, therefore the net agricultural income is decreasing," Pigeon added, emphasizing the urgent need for prioritization of agriculture and criticizing the government's lack of concrete support.

"One of the most infuriating things for us is the financial issue," Pigeon explained. "We want to pay a fair price for our products. And when the price isn't there, it takes government measures that intervene quickly. Money for producers quickly, it's difficult to come by money apart from just interest rate discounts, programs where you have to invest a large amount of money to get a subsidy that is just a small interest rate," he continued.

The interview also touched upon the projected decline in net farm income, with Pigeon expressing grave concern over the catastrophic drop forecasted for 2024. "The idea is that net income is income minus expenses, and expenses have increased so much despite an increase in revenue," Pigeon explained. "We often have good revenue for our products, but it's the expenses. Expenses have increased so much that they have caught up with the price of our revenue. So at some point, we're not making any more money."

Furthermore, Pigeon discussed the challenges posed by environmental standards and bureaucratic regulations, which consume valuable time and resources. "All this paperwork, all this time management that we have to put in, it's help that we need from our management clubs to be able to understand the regulations well and apply them correctly," he emphasized.

Drawing parallels with farmers' struggles in Europe, Pigeon emphasized the importance of educating the public and advocating for agricultural policy prioritization. "We have to educate people to understand that. Ask your next government to attach great importance to agriculture," he urged.

In response to concerns about future government support, Pigeon expressed frustration over the perceived lack of attention to agriculture in budget allocations. "With ninety-seven percent of the budget in 2023, we expect something like point eight percent of the budget in 2024," he lamented. "I find it a little discouraging. We say that we're not keeping up in agriculture, that we have a beautiful agriculture. Yes, because we're passionate as farmers in Quebec, but at the government level, at the political level, I don't think the message is getting across."

As Quebec's farmers continue to grapple with financial uncertainty and regulatory challenges, their resilience and determination to safeguard the future of agriculture remains unwavering. Through ongoing advocacy efforts and community mobilization, they strive to secure a sustainable and prosperous future for Quebec's agricultural sector.

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