Land-grabbing Practices – Letter to the editor

Dear Editor:

Just this past month, the National Farmers Union as a member of La Via Campesina joined other farm organizations around the world to mark April 17, the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle. This year the NFU and other like- minded organizations drew the world’s attention to the issue of land-grabbing, where wealthy corporations and foreign countries purchase large tracts of farmland, taking control of the land out of the hands of local farmers, usually evicting the farmers and their communities. Such land is then used to grow crops for biofuels, to grow food for the exclusive use of the investor country’s population, to hold for speculative purposes or as a revenue stream for absentee investors. Farmers who once raised the food for their own people in these countries become precarious labourers on land they once owned, or they must leave the land and hope to find work elsewhere.

In Canada, land-grabbing is facilitated by agriculture policies that lead to farmers becoming burdened with unsustainable debt loads, due in large part to Canada’s single-minded focus on expanding trade through increased exports instead of ensuring Canada has a sustainable and equitable food policy that allows us to be able to feed ourselves and for our farmers to make a living. When experienced farmers can no longer meet their debt obligations, and young people are unable to take on the amount of debt required to set up a new farm, the land-grabbers are ready and able to take advantage of the situation. A key struggle for today’s farmers is to stay on the land and to make it possible for the next generation of farmers to take their place.

As a farm organization working to preserve the family farm for future food production, I wanted to bring this serious issue of land grabbing to the attention of our farmers in Renfrew County. To my knowledge it appears that in Renfrew County the issue of land grabbing has not happened.

On a point of information, a fairly large tract of land in the Ottawa area has been purchased by a private company with many off-shore investors. I certainly encourage our local family farms to stay vigilant on this serious issue.

Dave MacKay
President, Renfrew County NFU