Much of the mainstream media has picked up on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit this week with some Quebec farmers at the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) headquarters. I was not at the event, nor have I talked to anyone in attendance, but coverage of the event is focused on farmers painting a very dire financial picture for Trudeau.
I am glad that he appeared at the UPA event, but I don’t think he should stop there.
Prime ministers don’t talk to farmers like this very often, so the media coverage is warranted. During the Trump administration, then president Donald Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau meeting twice to large crowds and fan fair. In both cases, visits like these are more about politics and safe environments than effecting change. Prime Minister Trudeau telling the Quebec farmers that they were “seen and heard” is him being on-brand with over-the-top empathy, in my opinion.
If you really want to be the “seen and heard” guy, Trudeau, you should take the opportunity to visit with farmers across the country and hear a broader context of concerns for the industry. Quebec is a slice of agriculture, albeit an important one. The trouble with the diversification of agriculture is that the industry’s perspectives are as vast as the country it resides within. The conversation had yesterday in Quebec is just one of many conversations this government should be having with farmers directly.
The political reality for the federal government is that Canadian farmers outside of Quebec do not feel they are supported. According to the January 2023 results of the Canadian Farmer Sentiment Index only 2% of farmers and ranchers feel the federal government supports the agricultural industry.
Since the Prime Minster is so interested in seeing and hearing farmers’ concerns, I would love to see stops in Atlantic Canada, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia.
It seems that the UPA farmers selected to attend the event were focused on profitability, which is a slice of where a majority of the concerns lie. Profitability is an outcome that is relative and difficult to fix unless you are resolving with straight ad hoc cash subsidies. It’s my belief that if the sample of farmers were broadened, you would hear a much more diverse cross-section of issues raised. Back in December, I wrote about these concerns after the Grow Canada meeting although it’s not fully inclusive.
I encourage Prime Minister Trudeau to be seen across the entire country and hear more about the concerns of all farmers and ranchers.