“We must invest in the next generation of farmers”

Editor’s note This text is part of a file written as part of the issue paper on: “Agriculture and the Agri-Food Industry: Cultivating Northernity” published in our July issue.

SAGENAY. It is important to be concerned about the continuity of agriculture, otherwise we risk seeing the devitalization of the region, says Mario Teberge, president of the Federation of Agricultural Producers Union (UPA) of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

“When farmers have no heirs, they liquidate their businesses, and there is one less person left on the territory. Neighbors buy land, but we don’t charge our benches like that. Fewer farms mean devitalization of our communities. If there was no agriculture, there would be no villages,” he says.

In a context where food self-sufficiency is increasingly in government discourse and where arable land in other countries is shrinking, the issue of sustainability becomes key. “This is the future of our region. Due to climate change, Quebec could become the breadbasket of the world. We are essential to feed the people of Quebec, as well as the world. In the long term, agriculture needs to be invested while the land is still ours and our producers and our youth are motivated,” says Teberge.

Complex financing

There are interested relievers. However, one of the big problems they face is funding. “It’s happening there. We can see the interest of young people. They are present. […] Recruitment is ongoing in educational institutions. Except when they graduate, they won’t have the money to buy a farm. Financial assistance, programs to support them will be needed,” says Mario Teberge, who reminds that, for example, a dairy farm can cost several million dollars.

According to the president of the regional UPA Federation, young people who already have a family in the agricultural sector can better establish themselves in this field with the support of their parents and knowledge of various opportunities. For others it is more difficult. Paradoxically, a producer who sells to his child has a greater tax impact than if he sold to a foreigner, an injustice condemned by the UPA.

Thus, the question of financing remains an important question regarding legal succession. “Everything must be done. Financière agricole programs are no longer eligible. They need to be reassessed and updated,” said Mr. Teberge.

District consultation

The UPA Federation of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is making a lot of efforts to come up with solutions in this case. However, Mario Teberge believes that concerted action at the regional level is needed to take action that will have a tangible impact.

According to him, the Arterre project, which aims to create a network between producer-transmitters and beginning farmers, has not had the expected success due to the lack of cohesion between the various RCMs. A meeting organized in January with around forty stakeholders involved in agricultural succession also concluded that too much work is being done in silos. “Our desire in the UPA is for regional leaders to work together. »

Projects

In particular, the president wants the Agri-relève strategy, which he launched with two other MRC Marie-Chapdelaine staff members, to spread throughout Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. “We brought together all the stakeholders in the community, including financial institutions, the agricultural advisory group, the ministry, the MRC, the producers and the UPA. We’ve brought them together to talk about business development and handover, so employees don’t have to visit each organization individually. This makes the process easier. […] By creating it on a regional basis, we create synergies that allow us to find the next generation in a larger pool. »

The UPA Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean team is also working on a new project after a day of work with COlab in January. “Soon we should receive a report and conclusions. We hope to implement a regional strategy with COlab, including educational institutions, MAPAQ, Financière agricole, etc. It should revive the next generation. We are preparing the ground,” says Mario Teberge.

This project should be implemented next winter. “We have high expectations. This can make a big difference for many years. There are major stakeholders who want to participate in the regional pilot project,” concluded Mr. Teberge.