By Andrea Cranfield
Outaouais farmers were finally to get some relief in the form of cash after suffering through what some called the drought of the century.
With no rain all last summer, farmers’ crops didn’t grow and their fields didn’t flourish. Farmers waited and prayed for rain – but none came.
Fruit and vegetable farmers had nothing to sell, and animal farmers had no forage to feed their livestock. Many farmers were forced either to sell some of their animals or dig into their winter feed supply.
Although there has been plenty of rain (and even snow) since the drought, many farmers are still suffering because of the money lost this summer. Many are struggling to make ends meet and some allowed they felt they had nowhere to turn.
Then, on Dec. 6, it was announced that both the federal and provincial governments would provide $2.15 million in funding to Quebec farmers.
Pontiac MP Mathieu Ravignat said he was pleased the money was coming, but it should have been made available long ago. He was also unsure whether the funds would be enough.
Why was the money so late in coming? Ravignat said he put pressure on the province’s minister of agriculture to get funding. He was told the province had done all it could do and it was the federal government that was lagging in dealing with the issue.
It seemed the provincial government was too busy dealing with an election to think about helping the farmers.
Meanwhile, about a month ago, some area farmers received relief when farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta sent some hay bales to western Quebec and southern Ontario. The project was called Hay East.
They were returning a favour from a decade ago, when Quebec and Ontario farmers sent feed west during a drought in the Prairie provinces. The project was called Hay West.
Ten years ago, area farmers shipped 11,000 tonnes of hay to Saskatchewan and Alberta farmers during their time of need.
Because it was especially rainy this year in western Canada, Saskatchewan farmers had bountiful crops this summer.
The Mennonite Disaster Service organized the deliveries of bales of hay, which came to the region by rail. Apparently, several hundred bales of hay came in during Hay East – not even a fraction of what was sent out during Hay West.
Our farmers need help and none seemed to be coming in from anywhere. When farmers suffer, communities suffer. When communities suffer, cities suffer. We need our farmers, and we must remember: so much of their success each season depends on the weather, over which they have no control.
It is essential that farmers count on each other for aid. They certainly can’t wait around for the government to help. Even so, it was wonderful news that the government has stepped up and provided funds for farmers, even though it was too near the Christmas holiday. The money would have been more of a relief – had it come in a few months ago.
Ed. note: Andrea Cranfield is the editor of The Equity, a Shawville-based weekly.