On Monday March 15, I spoke in response to a Ministerial statement on Canadian Agricultural Safety Week. On Tuesday March 16, I spoke in response to a second Ministerial statement on Agriculture Awareness Day. My comments are below (from Hansard).
Canadian Agricultural Safety Week
Mr. Gerrard: Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is a very important week. It's a week to acknowledge the important work that farmers in Manitoba do, the help they provide, the food
provide, and to reflect on efforts to improve farm safety in our province.
From the number of older farmers in Manitoba, it sure looks to be a safe occupation, but when you look a little closer, a 2017 report in Manitoba says, and I quote, the most dangerous work in Manitoba is in the agricultural sector. Agriculture has had more deaths in the past decade than any other sector. Between 2006 and 2015, 48 deaths occurred in the agricultural sector.
There are much more than just deaths impacting health in the agricultural sector. The impact of using chemicals, including pesticides, the impact of stress on mental health is widespread from surveys of farmers. This has been exacerbated for some farmers, who are farming on Crown lands, this year by the changes in the government policies.
We have to be aware of what's happening with COVID-19 and the fact that in Ontario, migrant workers were at increased risk of getting COVID-19. I looked at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy for an assessment of health in our agricultural community, and I was not able to find it. But, clearly, it is important.
Agriculture Awareness Day
Mr. Gerrard: Yes, Madam Speaker, agricultural awareness day is very important. Indeed, rarely has there ever been such a great need to create better understanding between those in the agricultural industry and all other Manitobans.
During the COVID pandemic, our agriculture and agri-food industry performed in an outstanding fashion, providing a reliable source of food, and they did an incredible job. This needs to be recognized, and the agricultural community is to be thanked.
We have, at the same time, government bills on petty trespassing and biosecurity. And the government needs to do a much better job of explaining these bills, not just to those in the agricultural community, but to the general public, because there is a lot of potential for misunderstandings and problems.
At the moment, in getting markets around the world, markets are changing their approach and highlighting the environmental aspects and the animal husbandry aspects of the production of food. In this climate, we need to have much more emphasis on climate change, but we also need to be promoting what the agricultural industry is doing and providing even better mechanisms for them to get 'cardon'–carbon credits for sequestering carbon.
Animal husbandry is increasingly very important in the marketing of our products, and we need to be recognized for excellence in this area. Sadly, one of the things this government has done is to create incredible stress in the area of producers who are–have been on Crown lands. The government should retract measures which are causing the stress and address this.
Farm safety, as we talked about yesterday, is incredibly important, and we have a long way to go to improve the health of those in the agricultural industry and to make sure that people are safe.
So I say thank you, along with other MLAs, to all those in the agriculture and agri-food industries. Thank you, thank you, merci, miigwech.