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Europe's agricultural uprising a warning for Canada

Canada 13.06.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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European politics are notoriously intricate, and the recent EU elections have highlighted a growing fatigue in the West towards socialist and urban-centric policies that impact agriculture and the agri-food sectors.
Europe's agricultural uprising a warning for Canada
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Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.
The farmers’ revolt, peaking in January and February 2024, has affected most EU member states. This uprising is fuelled by escalating production costs, foreign competition, declining incomes, environmental restrictions, and onerous administrative procedures. In essence, Europe is undergoing significant turmoil, and it seems farmers’ voices have finally been heard.

From a food security standpoint, the situation in Europe is deteriorating. Extreme agricultural policies that empower the state to control farming have rendered Europe less food secure. The results of the EU election will have a profound impact on the continent’s future food security. Farmers have been burdened by bureaucratic policies and restrictive regulations dictating what and how they can produce. Government oversight has reached extremes, with satellite images being used to monitor compliance with allowed crops and field activities, triggering automatic notifications if discrepancies are detected. This level of state control is unprecedented.Even before the election, the EU Parliament was under pressure. Facing mounting tension, several environmental regulations, including pesticide rules, were either diluted or repealed. This relaxation of green objectives may indicate a broader trend with the new parliament, which could be seen as a positive development. We have witnessed a significant shift in regulatory approaches in Europe, causing the continent to retreat from exports and focus on self-sufficiency. For instance, Europe’s pork production, one of the world’s most popular animal proteins, is down by 3 million metric tons from 2021, representing 25% of the United States’ entire pork production. Grain production is also languishing, making it increasingly difficult to feed livestock.

The EU projects that overall cereal production this season will be 4.3% below the five-year average, not only due to adverse weather conditions but also because farmers feel unsupported and lack incentives. Europe’s struggles have created opportunities for American producers, who are now targeting markets like Korea, previously served by Europe. Brazil has also capitalized on Europe’s challenges, and Canada should follow suit.

While the United States views Europe’s self-inflicted food insecurity as a chance to expand its market reach, Canada seems enamoured with European-style, urban-centric agri-food policies. The EU’s experience serves as a critical case study for Canada on what not to do.

Undermining farmers and disregarding their expertise is not only reckless but also perilous for citizens and the economy. Restoring dignity to farming in Canada is imperative.

For effective environmental stewardship, governments must prioritize farmers’ insights. Their knowledge is invaluable, surpassing that of vocal NGOs and federally funded entities like the Canadian Climate Institute or the Smart Prosperity Institute, which have received more than $51 million to amplify the federal government’s current narrative on environmental policies, often to the detriment of farming communities.

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July 2024
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