How do farmers manage the seasonal nature of their income? How do they deal with the whims of Mother Nature in an era of climate change? Is diversifying production enough to manage the risks of unpredictable weather patterns? Read on for an overview of a sector that fuels our economy and our people.
The agricultural industry feeds the economy
Quebec has more than 27,300 agricultural businesses across all regions. They employ roughly 55,400 people and generate $9.1 billion in total sales.1 “Agri-food contributes to regional growth and the social fabric of our community,” says Sylvain Morel, Vice-President, Agriculture and Agri-Food Markets, at Desjardins. “Many hardware stores, electricians and other local business owners depend on this sector.”
Cultivating long-term wealth
Agricultural businesses require a lot of assets and heavy investment to generate revenue. “Land and buildings are assets that generate stable income over the long term,” says Morel. “Not only do they need flexible, long-term financing, but they also have to be very efficient with every dollar of farm income to make their operations profitable.”
That’s especially true given that farmers in Quebec and the rest of the country produce high-quality food in an environmentally sustainable way while meeting stringent food safety standards and promoting animal welfare. “Our farmers do all of this while keeping the cost of food reasonable for consumers,” says Morel.
Adapting for all seasons
International politics, changes in exchange rates, fluctuating commodity prices and climate change all influence agriculture and are beyond farmers’ control. “Farmers are good managers who can adapt quickly by investing in strategies like drainage and irrigation systems,” says Morel. “Automation and precision farming also enable them to adapt to new realities and reduce the need for intensive labour. This more technological agriculture offers good jobs for family members and local or foreign workers.” Government support also plays a key role in allowing farmers to compete with global companies and encouraging these technological changes.
Desjardins: A leader in agricultural financing
To better serve agricultural businesses, from the smallest to the biggest, regardless of where they’re located, Desjardins employs 200 professionals to support our agricultural members. They’re divided into 11 regional teams, and there’s also a provincial team dedicated to major accounts. Just as farmers get support from animal feeding, field cultivation and equipment specialists, Desjardins account managers act as financing partners.
Support at every stage
Startup, growth, land or quota purchases, building construction, ownership transfer and farm succession: Desjardins helps farmers with every phase of their business. “We analyze every project based on integrated production chains, whether that’s for production under quota or for products competing on the international market,” says Morel. “Our goal is to support our agricultural members and help farming families have a profitable, thriving business.”
To help their agricultural clients develop connections, Desjardins account managers turn to their own internal networks. “Let’s say a member wants to build a barn with milking robots. We can call on our colleagues to find other farmers who’ve already done that and get their input. We can even organize a site visit,” says Morel.
This system also encourages various connections within the agriculture and agri-food value chain, for example, by putting a specialized equipment manufacturer in touch with a farmer, or a grain producer with a miller and a baker. “If you’re looking for a supplier or new customers, just ask us!” he says.
Supporting Quebec food security
Desjardins has always supported Quebec farmers, not only to contribute to regional economic development, but also to keep Quebecers from being reliant on foreign suppliers for their food. “Protecting home-grown food for local people means ensuring control over the quality of our food,” concludes Morel.