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Pontiac farmers protest, ‘fed up’ with lack of provincial support

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Luskville
Apr. 17, 2024
A group of Pontiac farmers took to the streets of downtown Gatineau in their tractors and trucks on Wednesday morning, joining over 50 agricultural producers from across the Outaouais region in a protest demanding greater financial support from the Quebec government.
The Pontiac contingent of about a dozen farmers gathered at Ferme Stépido on Alary Road in Luskville early that morning to line up their tractors and await the police cars that would escort their convoy all the way to their destination for the day – Casino du Lac-Leamy.
The protest was one of many organized by the Quebec farmers union, the Union des Producteurs Agricole (UPA), across the province since the 2024-2025 budget was tabled in March.
“We’re fed up,” said Stéphane Alary, president of the UPA’s Outaouais-Laurentides branch and owner of Ferme Stépido.
“We’re as essential as the health ministry and the education ministry. You need to eat before you can learn or work,” he said. “Everybody says farmers are essential, but where’s the money?”
Just under one per cent of the provincial budget is destined for the agricultural industry, “peanuts” according to Alary’s son Justin, the fifth generation to work on the family’s dairy and grain farm.
Of the $380 million marked for the agricultural sector over the next five years, $50 million will be used to create a new investment fund to help the next generation of farmers buy land. Another $50 million will be used to help farmers make sustainable agricultural investments.
The bulk of the remaining funds, about $240 million, will be used to continue the province’s farm property tax credit program.
Farmers gathered in Luskville pointed to the high cost of farming inputs like fertilizer and fuel, growing debt loads and high interest rates, and the vulnerability that comes with a changing climate as the biggest stressors in their field.

Justin Alary said he is frustrated with the lack of financial support and increased regulations for farmers, who he said are increasingly pinched between pressures from all directions.
“We often talk to our governments and they don’t really listen. They don’t really see all the impacts of all the new regulations and the standards,” Alary said, adding he found the support offered in the budget to be inadequate, and out of touch with the reality of running a farming business.
“You can no longer just work on a farm. It takes someone who can do all the paperwork, do the follow-ups, apply for programs,” Alary said. “You have to always be perfect, but sometimes it’s not our fault. We lived through a hail storm. We lived through the derecho.”
He said taking care of his cows alone takes 10 hours a day, leaving very little time for him to spend with his family, let alone do all the other work needed to keep the business afloat.
For Blake Draper, a cow calf producer in the Municipality of Pontiac, these funding programs are appreciated, but not nearly enough.
“The government has cut so many programs over the years that were essential to the farmers,” said Draper, who has been in the business for 50 some years.
“They’ve added so many environmental regulations that we have to adhere to but they don’t want to help us with any money to make these changes, like leaving land empty for frogs, birds, and things like that.”
Stéphane Alary said he too would like to see greater financial support for the climate-friendly transitions the province is encouraging across the agricultural sector.
“We’re there to be part of the solution but they need to put a lot more retribution for the farmers because the cost of the asset is so much. If you want me to put land for biodiversity, I can’t just give it away.”
THE EQUITY requested clarity from the province’s ministry of agriculture (MAPAQ) regarding funding programs available to farmers, but did not receive a response before publication deadline.
Quebec farming income
on the decline
Alary said the slice of the provincial budget dedicated to the agricultural sector has not changed over the past 10 years.
Meanwhile, the agricultural sector across the province is suffering.
In a February press release, the UPA cited data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) that predicted Quebec’s net farm income would drop 49.2 per cent in 2023 and 86.5 per cent in 2024, this despite net farm incomes reaching record highs in Canada for those same two years.
“However, the reality varies greatly from province to province, as shown by the results for Quebec,” the press release reads. “AAFC forecasts that net farm income in Quebec will fall from $959 million in 2022 to $487.1 million in 2023 (-49.2 per cent) and $66 million in 2024 (-86.5 per cent), the lowest levels in 86 years.”
For Stéphane Alary, it’s more than just a business that’s lost when a farmer decides to leave the industry, it’s a culture and a way of life.
“We’re losing knowledge of farming when we lose a farmer. You can spend a lot of money on a museum, but if you lose a farm that’s like losing a museum too. And the rural areas are getting poorer and poorer.”

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