UPA fears “financialization” of farmland
As the United Nations-declared “International Year of Family Farming” comes to an end, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) has issued a statement about its concern over the growing phenomenon of the monopolization and “financialization” of farmland and their effects, in particular, on the next generation of entrepreneurial farmers. According to the UPA, in Quebec, thousands of hectares are presently owned by corporations such as Pangea, Investerre Inc. and Partenaires agricoles S.E.C., and the movement is growing. “The business model proposed by these investment corporations is an empty shell in which the young farmers have no involvement in the assets, but do participate in the risks of the operation,” commented the general president of the UPA, Marcel Groleau.
The majority of farm transactions that are not intergenerational are now done with investment corporations and producers often feel that the corporations have ‘gotten the better of them’. The next generation of farmers, when not related to a farm holder, cannot compete with
the corporations. More and more examples of this are being brought to the attention of the UPA.
“It would take three hundred investors, owning 10,000 hectares each, to replace the 30,000 farms in Quebec. Is this really what we want?” said Mr. Groleau. “The investment corporations describe themselves as a last hope for the next generation of farmers. In reality, these corporations, through their speculative investments, destabilize the market,” continued the president of the Federation de la releve agricole du Quebec (FRAQ), Pascal Hudon, who added that the petition against the monopolizing of land, recently put on line by the federation, has already received 2,400 signatures.
According to the UPA and the FRAQ, Quebec cannot delay putting in place interventions to control the appetite of the investment corporations. The government must be aware of the situation and follow the trends. That’s why measures are required for a three year period during which the acquisition of land by corporations or shareholders of multiple corporations should be set to a maximum of 100 hectares a year. The transfer of farms to the next generation should be exempt from this measure. This would allow the government to make a real analysis and come up with global solutions, not just about the monopolizing of farmland, but also on access to the profession by the next generation of entrepreneurial farmers.
“At his swearing-in ceremony, the Premier asked his Minister of Agriculture to find solutions to this problem. Eight months later, the Minister has asked us to report the facts even though his ministry has the information and the room to manoeuver to react,” concluded Mr. Groleau.