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Ontario farmers raise crops, livestock...and hell

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Issue: 36 Section: Labour Geography: Ontario Topics: labour, food security

April 19, 2006

Ontario farmers raise crops, livestock...and hell

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

Farmers in Ontario are bringing the rural farming crisis into the big cities. On March 2 the CBC reported that thousands of farmers blocked traffic in downtown Toronto demanding more provincial aid. On March 17 hundreds of farmers took to the 401 in their tractors, reported Pulse24. On March 20, the National Post reported that farmers had launched a four-day protest aimed to secure help for farmers in the upcoming Ontario budget.

After four days of circling tractors around the Ontario legislature, farmers were disappointed by the provincial budget, reported the Ottawa Citizen. The amount of money for agriculture in the finance minister's budget went down from $1.14 billion last year to $896 million this year.

"They don't want us here. All they want is our land to go build houses on,'' says cattle farmer Kosto Popovic.

On April 5, thousands of farmers gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The farmers want the federal government to help them compete with heavily subsidized farmers in the United States and Europe reported CBC Ottawa.

"We're losing money," oilseed farmer Colleen Ross told CBC News. "We're selling below the cost of production."

On April 12, farmers began blocking distribution at three Ottawa grocery distribution warehouses. Three days later, the farmers called off the blockade in an "act of good faith" after meeting with federal agriculture officials. Blockade organizers say that their discussion with federal officials led them to believe there will be help for them in the upcoming federal budget, reported CTV.

On April 18, farmers extracted a concession from grocery store chain owners who agreed to arrange a meeting with the prime minister and agriculture minister, reported the Ottawa Sun.

The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, which represents the heavyweights in the grocery industry, agreed to bolster the farmers' lobbying efforts and push for new regulations that would promote Canadian produce on the shelves. Large grocers import about 70 per cent of their food.

"They said they would work with us," area cash crop farmer John Vanderspank told the Ottawa Sun. "They asked for a little bit more time."

He says the council also tried to convince the farmers to tone down their blockades, but the farmers refused to change tactics.

"They wanted to get it where it wouldn't hurt them, but that is not a reason for having it," says Vanderspank, who has a farm outside Carleton Place. "If we wanted a tea party, we would bring tea."

For more information on the roots of the farming crisis in Canada please read "Holy Cow, Farmers Really Are Efficient!"

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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