Warning: I will make reference to the good work done by Statistics Canada which is sort of an election issue (if people will stop talking about the coalition).
I was doing some research for a presentation and came across some figures that took my breath away. In earlier posts I'd talked about the many farmers who've experienced negative incomes over the last decade. If they keep farming they pile on more debt to do it, anchored by the equity they have in their farmland. Here's what we're looking at.. (and don't worry there won't be a test, and I sum it up down below, and I left other provinces in because we do have readers elsewhere, and it's important to know this isn't just a problem here).
Taken from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/21-014-x/21-014-x2010002-eng.pdf
I appreciate this is pretty dense, so here's a summary of rising debt loads (just for PEI):
In 2000 : $414, 239,000
In 2004, broke the half billion dollar mark: $577,559,000
And this is all happening while the number of farmers has continued to shrink every year, and interest rates are very low.
As a reporter I know I'm obligated to say something overly dramatic, but I'm resisting. The really cynical part of me is thinking that Canadians (who pay less of their incomes for food than others) enjoy cheap food subsidized by the equity of farm families.
I know all families struggle with debt levels, but even if the combination of weather, population increase, and rising Asian incomes etc. does put upward pressure on food prices, it seems like a very long road to get farmers back on some kind of sound financial footing. I don't know what the answer is. I suspect there will have to be some kind of discussion around debt (like governments did with General Motors, and the other automakers) if food security is considered important enough, but I know even that suggestion will irritate many.