Quebecers struggle to enter farming business due to high costs

When Miriam Landry started raising meat goats in 2018, she started small.

With two goats, she opened Chèvrerie aux Volets Verts in Saint-Esprit, Quebec. She couldn’t afford a large herd, and while pregnant with her third child, she chose animals small enough to handle herself.

Landry, 33, said in a recent interview from her farm 50 kilometers north of Montreal, “I should have started bigger…but I would have needed more money. It was not.

“It’s really hard for a young person to start something… I don’t even own a land, I don’t have a tractor, I have a goat (which I paid for) on loan.”

Rising land prices are making it more difficult than ever for young farmers to enter the business. And these barriers arise as more and more older farmers plan to leave the industry.

Organizations promoting the agricultural succession believe that if young people cannot enter the industry, only large companies will survive, crop and livestock diversity will decrease, and the gap between Canadians and their food sources will widen. I am concerned.

“The main challenge now is actually the cost of farmland,” said Benoît Curet, Coordinator of Altera.

Curet said several factors contributed to the price increase, including real estate speculation, particularly near Montreal, and fierce competition for the best soil in a state with only about 2% of land suitable for farming. I was.

Farmland prices rose 10% last year, which he said in a recent interview was not unusual.

“Over the past ten years, there has been an increase of about 6 to 10 percent per year.” he said.

“You have to be a millionaire before you can start an agribusiness,” says Curé, who usually expects a 20% down payment to buy a farm.

He lamented that most rural communities risk being left with two or three large farms if young people cannot afford to engage in agriculture.

Laundry rents her space, as do more than half of the aspiring farmers who have worked with ARTERRE.

Her small business is located on a former dairy farm now used for hay and grain. Her farm is now growing to breed 40 female goats and several males.

She said her barn has enough space for 60 females, but there is enough demand to feed 100.

Starting small allowed us to open a farm, but it also brought its own challenges. She said goat meat is rare in Quebec, and financial institutions are reluctant to lend money for the unfamiliar surgery.

Lenders don’t “want to finance it because they don’t know it. That’s really hard,” she said.

Farming has always been a capital-intensive industry, with high costs for land, equipment and materials, but prices across Canada exceed the income from the land, said Jan Jan, chief economist at Farm Credit Canada. Philippe Gervais said. , a state enterprise that finances farmers.

“The relationship between the price of land and the income you can expect from it is the highest ratio I have ever seen,” Gervais said in a recent interview. “That means we have the best prices we have ever seen, not only in absolute dollars per hectare, but also relative to income generated.”

It’s now rare for farmers to make a profit just by cultivating the land they buy, he said, adding that most farmers only get their money back when they sell it.

He added that large, established farms can finance the purchase of more land from the revenue generated from land that has already been paid for.

But even large farms suffer from high costs.

A survey of more than 3,600 farmers released last month by the Quebec Farmers Association found that 11% are thinking of closing within the next year.

The Union des producteurs agricoles found that in 2022, farm costs in Quebec increased by an average of 17.3% and earnings increased by an average of 14.7%.

According to a report released by RBC in early April, 40% of Canadian farmers plan to retire in the next 10 years, and 66% had no succession plan.

Julie Bissonnette, who represents young farmers in Quebec and heads an organization that promotes farm inheritance, says there are a lot of young people interested in farming.

“Sometimes we hear that there is no one to take over, which is not true. There are many, but we have to make sure they can establish,” a recent interview. “That’s a lot of money.”

Bissonnette said the sprawling expansion of cities and the influx of people moving to rural areas to work in remote areas are increasing pressure on arable land in Quebec.

Landry, meanwhile, said he would like to meet more small farmers, as they tend to form close ties with locals.

“We need to remind people of what they do three times a day: eat,” she said. If not, find someone who can raise you like you did.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on May 7, 2023.

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