Recent History – 1999
July 22, 1999
By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
DAWSON CREEK – Local grain farmers are facing what could be another poor harvest.
A cold spring, followed by hot weather and not enough rain as well as falling commodity prices means more hard times, says local farmer Nick Parsons. After the last two years of bad weather and poor crops and no help from government disaster assistance programs, farmers are in dire straits, he says.
“I feel very let down by the federal government,” he says. “When we had a disaster, they wouldn’t declare it.”
Nationally, net farm income is projected to be cut by almost half this year, according to Agriculture Canada, dropping to $1.78 billion from an average $3.3 billion a year from 1994 to 1998.
If the government really want to help the struggling farmers, they need to learn the concept of fair play when it comes to federal aid, Parsons says.
After major floods two years ago, B.C. Peace farmers received only what help could be had through the Whole Farm Insurance program and the Net Income Stabilization Account, which just wasn’t enough, says Parsons. With the Whole Farm Insurance program, local farmers only received $7-$10 per acre, if they qualified, he adds.
However, Saskatchewan, facing similar floods this year, will receive immediate flood relief of $50 per unseeded acre as announced Monday by the provincial and federal government. Manitoba is expected to get much the same deal.
“What can you say?” says Farmington grain farmer Peter Brown, as he talks about his rapidly drying crops. “You’re happy that those guys are getting it. We know what that situation’s like.”
Some farmers haven’t recuperated after the last two years, says long-time local farmer George Strasky. If prices and weather don’t improve, “we won’t even hold our own, we’ll slip backwards,” he says.
“We won’t be making any money,” Brown adds. “We might just about cover input costs, but there won’t be anything left to pay mortgages or bills.”
Parsons can’t figure out why the federal government was so quick to come to the aid of the prairie farmers, yet chose to ignore the B.C. Peace producers, who, he says, were harder hit, as they had already seeded their crops.
“It’s like a father with five sons, helping some, but forgetting the others,” he says.
Part of it also has to do with size, says Ian Pickering of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. Since agriculture is the main industry of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the voices of farmers are heard when it comes to getting government action.
“You could almost compare that to the forestry industry in B.C.” he says. “When they start lobbying, they get results. It’s the same thing with Saskatchewan and agriculture.”
The small grain producing corner of B.C. is often forgotten or ignored, agrees Prince George-Peace River MP Jay Hill.
“When I was making overtures and statements regarding the two year disaster that plagued our area farmers, it was readily apparent that the provincial government’s lack of interest in our area was a major factor in allowing the federal government to ignore the plight of the farmers here,” he says.