Saturday, July 24

The next generation of Quebec farmers hampered by the rise in land prices

The price of farmland continues to rise in Quebec. It increased an average of 7.3% in 2020, according to a Farm Credit Canada (FCC) report released on Monday. This is more than the Canadian average of 5.4%. This worries the Federation of agricultural succession, which notes that young farmers already have great difficulty in acquiring land.

Carole Rondeau gave up, at least for a few years, her ambition to start her small vegetable farm. She had, however, found what seemed to her to be the rare pearl in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, after having searched for two or three hectares of land in several regions of Quebec for several months. “We made offers on houses or land, but there were always lots of people bidding on. It was often people who were looking for a country house to live in or make an Airbnb, ”says the one who completed a master’s degree in environment and followed courses in horticultural production.

The Bas-Saint-Laurent – ​​Gaspésie region is one of the regions to have experienced the most dramatic increases this year, ie 18.1%. As in many other regions, aspiring farmers find themselves there in competition with sometimes wealthy people who have felt the call of the countryside, without any intention of exploiting the land. That’s what cost Rondeau. “My ideal was to participate in the food self-sufficiency of Quebec”, regrets the latter.

In Estrie, the increase was 32.4%, while in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, it reached 19.5%. These are regions where prices are still relatively low and where they would catch up with the richest and most expensive lands, such as those in Montérégie, the Laurentians and Lanaudière, indicates FAC.

Alexandre Bernier saw the direct consequences of this increase, he who tried to take over his parents’ dairy farm in Normandin, in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean. “The value of the land and the business has doubled in five years. And that’s how it is for quite a few farms in the region, ”notes the president of the Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean regional center for young farmers. “We want to own the land of our ancestors. But if we are not able to pay what they are worth today, there are dangers that it will end up in the hands of big investors who, for their part, have the means. He estimates that it will take him at least 30 years to reimburse his father for the transfer of the business.

Food prices and interest rates

This price increase can be explained by several factors, according to Maurice Doyon, professor of agrifood economics at Laval University. First, there is the high price of corn and soybeans, as well as very low interest rates, which increase the ability of buyers to pay. There is also the moratorium on the development of new agricultural land in several municipalities, which limits the possibilities for producers wishing to expand. “If producers see a lot adjacent to their farm become available, knowing that they will have no other option for a long time, they will be ready to pay the price,” explains Mr. Doyon.

However, land is currently too expensive for what it can bring in in the short to medium term, say many farmers. It is therefore difficult and risky for young entrepreneurs to afford such purchases. And they are not fighting on an equal footing against big companies with strong backs.

In addition, prices are even higher for small lots of a few hectares, according to the Cooperative for ecological proximity agriculture (CAPE). “The potential buyers are not just agricultural producers, but also vacationers. This is an obstacle for people interested in starting a vegetable production, underlines Caroline Poirier, president of CAPE. We should ask ourselves what we could do to ensure that the land in the green zone is used to feed us. “

We want to own the land of our ancestors. But if we are not able to pay what they are worth today, there are dangers that it will end up in the hands of big investors.

There are programs to support the purchase of land by succession, such as the Investment Fund for Agricultural Succession (FIRA). FIRA can in particular acquire land coveted by a young farmer and lease it to him. The contractor may, in due course, redeem the lot from FIRA.

But the existing initiatives are not sufficient, according to the Federation of the next generation of agriculture of Quebec (FRAQ), which asks the government to sit down with it to work on solutions. “There is still a long way to go,” estimates Julie Bissonnette, president of the FRAQ. The agricultural schools are packed. The government must support young people so that they do not get discouraged. “

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