Photo by NOAA / Unsplash

Political appetite

With current drought conditions across broad swaths of the Prairies this summer, agriculture producers are going to feel the squeeze financially.

Calvin Daniels

September 18, 2023

For cattle and sheep producers, there is the added pressure of having to buy feed as pasture and hay land production has been impacted. To offset at least some of those costs, producers are looking to the government for dollars. The expectation for government help for agriculture in times of weather disaster is, of course not without some level of irony.

By nature, farm producers are a rather independent lot, and most often are suggesting the government can best serve their needs by limiting regulation and getting out of their way as they undertake the business of farming. The call by many in the day to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board to allow greater freedom in marketing wheat and barley is a rather obvious example.

But, droughts and floods and frost are beyond the best practices of farmers to overcome, and when such forces of nature impact the bottom line of producers, there really is no other place to look for support than from the government. So, we see farm groups asking today for help.

The situation brings into focus a couple of questions which really need to be answered as we move forward

The situation brings into focus a couple of questions which really need to be answered as we move forward. To begin with, what is the political appetite to send money to Prairie producers? This is really a twofold one in the sense there is the political will of increasingly non-ag-connected voters and the view of the ruling party in Ottawa.

The voter will be increasingly a tough sell as there will be a view the farmer - many who see climate change as 'fake news' want help when severe weather hurts their bottom line. It's a difficult reality to reconcile for an environmentally conscious voter in Toronto or Vancouver.

For the ruling Liberals, there is also their obvious understanding that they have become the Prairie whipping boy for all ills. Trudeau has become the trump card for the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who simply deflect all blame for all things to the Prime Minister, and the majority appear to nod agreeingly.

No level of federal help for farmers will change the blame game in Ottawa's favour or result in Liberal victories in the region in the next election, so while there is an obligation to help all Canadians, sending money west must leave a bad taste in the mouth's of federal Liberals right now.

And, what of the future, as severe weather is certainly more common, meaning more crop impacts are likely down the road? Is there a limitless pool of government dollars to offset increased weather disasters for farmers?

If the answer is no, it brings up a bigger question: what happens when the dollars run out?

business and agriculture