There is growing recognition of what farmers, and their families, have known for decades: Farming is stressful!
It is a profession where, at times, it seems everything and almost everyone is against you. The weather, genetics, crops, machinery, disease, pestilence, etc. Nothing ever happens at the right time and there is always hand wringing about planting or crop yields.
Almost every agricultural publication has at least one article concerning the stresses of farming and how to deal with it. Some are good, some not. Yoga in the calf pens maybe?
Every farmer can tell of someone who threw in the towel and quit in frustration, some after going through expansion. A glance down the “Farms for Sale” listings reveals many relatively new operations available. Some couldn’t take the stress anymore.
Even sadder are those taken early by heart attacks or strokes trying to keep up. Worse yet and spoken about in hushed tones are those who saw no way out and died by their own hand. Every community has at least one who found farming no longer bearable. Agricultural stress taking its ultimate toll.
Countless surveys and questionnaires arrive, aimed at farmers, some by agricultural colleges. It seems that they always arrive at the most stressful time: planting, haying and harvesting, when days are long and hours are short. Do they not comprehend the business of farming? Could they not present their questions at a better time? No, they want it NOW, not when it is convenient for the farmer. More stress.
The answers they receive confirms what we on the land already know and the stress levels rise with added red tape and record keeping demanded by marketing organizations and government agencies. It is easy for those sitting at desks, who have never stepped foot on a farm, let alone worked on one, to decide, “Hey, let’s get farmers to do this!” Not one has ever downsized application procedures, or record keeping or even stepped back from their desks to see how they are adding to the already over-powering burdens on farmers’ shoulders. And now we have politicians arranging our markets for us without our input. Will it ever stop?
Ontario poultry producers, however, have a one-in-a-million marketing board, with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) which, in January, approached Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman with suggestions to cut the red tape in provincial programs using a process called Minimum Effective Regulations (MER). It would reduce the burden on their farmers (and hopefully all farmers). The CFO saw the ever-growing problem, considered how it could be alleviated and approached the minister who agreed to policy reviews.
In a nutshell, MER is the creation of concise paperwork, the least required to obtain the desired results: A brilliant CFO innovation. MER is a procedure by which existing applications and forms, as well as any future ones, will be reviewed and all redundant, repetitive and irrelevant questions will be removed, resulting in concise and thus far shorter paperwork which does not repeatedly request information which is already in the ministry’s computers. Having presented the idea to the Minister, the ball is now in their hands to complete it in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, those of us staggering under the red tape burdens imposed by the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) and our provincial boards — and with more on the horizon — were just thrilled to read that Lawrence MacCauley, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food has given the DFC $2.7 million to roll out the next phase of the proAction burden, Biosecurity. More records, more paperwork, more running, more rules, more regulations and more red tape. Can you tell how excited we are?
To Ed Benjamins, Chair of CFO and Rob Dougans, President and CEO of CFO: Could you be convinced to take control of the DFC and the DFO? Both need leaders who recognize problems and aim to fix them, not be become part of and enlarge them. Red tape is killing dairy farmers, as well as the industry. Are either of you interested in helping us regain our health and sanity?