Quebec farmers “drowning in red tape” protest record low profits

Farmers have gathered in Rimouski, Quebec to voice their concerns in the days leading up to the province’s next budget announcement. 

Several hundred farmers from Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie region travelled to Rimouski to participate in the demonstration by the Federation of the Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) of Bas-Saint-Laurent.

Dozens of tractors and trailers joined together in a convoy to circle the street in front of the office of Minister Maïté Blanchette Vézina, who represents the Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine regions. 

Afterwards, the tractors moved to the offices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec.

The demonstrators say they are particularly worried about what the future holds for the next generation of farmers. 

Dairy producer François Pigeon from Saint-Eugène-de-Ladrière and administrator of the Fédération UPA of Bas-Saint-Laurent told CBC’s Radio-Canada in an interview that their intention is not to block traffic, only to impede it, to make people aware of the importance of agriculture and see how it affects their daily meals. 

Pigeon acknowledges that the protest was inspired by the ongoing European farmers protests in places like France, Belgium and Poland. 

However, Pigeon wanted to make clear that the demonstrators had no intention of creating any social unrest, just merely wanted their presence to be recognized.

The rising cost of supplies for farmers like fertilizer, fuel and machinery has led to them being faced with record low profits. 

One farmer’s sign read, “notre fin sera votre faim,” which translates to “our end will be your hunger.” 

A delegation of farmers from the Gaspésie-Les Îles UPA travelled to Rimouski as well, to show their solidarity with the Lower Laurentian producers. 

The province’s net agricultural income is projected to drop from $959 million in 2022 to $66 million in 2024, according to the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 

That marks a 49.2% decrease of net income from 2023 and an 86.5% increase for 2024. Losses of that magnitude haven’t been recorded since 1938. 

“[We want to] express the dismay of many producers,” said François Pigeon in French.

“The majority of us have a hard time making ends meet, we’re drowning in red tape, we’re drowning in regulations. We have a price that is not fair for our products. We want to raise awareness among the population to demand agricultural policies from our governments.”

Despite not meeting with protestors on Friday, Vézina confirmed in a written statement to Radio-Canada that her government “is mobilized to support [the farmers]. My colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is working, in collaboration with the sectors, to improve the working environment and support you in the face of current challenges. We are monitoring and will continue to monitor the situation carefully over the coming months.”

The Bas-Saint-Laurent UPA, said that a meeting is scheduled to take place with Minister Vézina on March 15.

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