By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Despite stress being an ever-present issue within the workplace, some jobs like farming have to deal with it on a much more regular basis than others.
As a follow-up to speaking in the House of Commons about the stress and mental health problems that farmers are facing, Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, outlined exactly what farmers have to deal with when running their business.
“When we talk about health, people often think of the specific health system that people may access,” said Shields. “Whether it’s your doctor, or maybe you need a hip replacement, or maybe an emergency surgery, but mental health in the sense of the ag sector is a critical and important piece that people often forget. Ag producers are involved in very large commercial operations. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of resources to be able to be ready to buy equipment, be able to plant a crop and harvest it. There are a lot of financial resources involved in agriculture. It’s not just a small operation where combines can cost you $1 million, and fertilizer runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those things all have to be paid upfront to buy those things or borrow money for. When you look at that financial risk and then you’re depending on nature in the sense of the weather being predictable enough that you could get a crop back that you could get harvested — there’s a lot of stress in that.”
He also briefly discussed his work with a hotline and Shields talked about how farmers can get hit with surprise costs from the carbon tax when dealing with things such as irrigation, which is a very common farming practice in the prairies.
“Back when I was involved in the Palliser Health Region, we established a specific stress line for agriculture mental health for agriculture people to call and it was used. So, my point when I was talking about it in the House of Commons, I was talking about agriculture — the carbon tax is another piece that adds onto that. The carbon tax, when we talk about tripling it, the amount of cost it takes when you get into the irrigation sector — when you’re talking about electricity used — which there is no exemption for electricity generated by natural gas, there is no exemption for that cost as there would be for maybe other fuels. The rebate that you might get out of business expense for agriculture that is in place is part of one per cent — a small amount. So, the tripling of those costs, along with the carbon tax with irrigation — to run irrigation is huge, and when you triple it, what the ag producers are paying for agricultural electricity to run irrigation is huge now and it will be much more significant.”
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