NFU to launch young farmer campaign

Canada’s National Farmers Union plans to launch a new nationwide awareness campaign focused on the “rapid decline” in the number of farmers, particularly young and beginning farmers.

The NFU plans to officially launch its Campaign for New Farmers on Saturday (Nov. 28), the last day of its annual convention in Ottawa.

“This is an issue that has been left on the table far too long,” NFU national youth president Kalissa Regier said in a recent release. “Canada simply can’t afford to lose any more of its farmers.”

Citing Statistics Canada data, the NFU said Canada lost over 60 per cent of its farmers under age 35 between 1991 and 2006. To reverse such a “destructive” trend, Regier said, all levels of society need to be concerned.

The NFU campaign is meant to combine new farmer training and support programs with “sound political education and analysis” to try and find and implement meaningful solutions.

“The campaign also aims to increase public awareness, which is vital to breaking down the many economic, social and political barriers faced by our farmers today,” the group said.

“This is a campaign that truly includes everyone who eats Canadian-grown food and wants to continue to do so in the future,” said Regier, who farms near Laird, Sask., about 60 km north of Saskatoon. “Farmers are the most important food-producing resource we have in this country.”

The federal government earlier this month announced a series of round-table meetings meant to discuss the key challenges facing young farmers and the future of agriculture.

Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the federal minister of state for agriculture, had scheduled meetings in the second and third week of November with “farmers, agriculture students and academics” in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

“I believe Canada’s young and future farmers have a unique perspective on the issues facing the agriculture industry,” Blackburn said Nov. 9. “These dialogues will be valuable in helping to bring their voices to the forefront and ensure their ideas are put into action.”

The roundtables were to focus on identifying “key issues” for young people who want to farm and on “charting solutions that will help new and young farmers start their business, capture more opportunities to grow and diversify their businesses.”

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