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The emotional impact of drought

The Story

"It takes something out of you," says one farmer, describing how the 1984 drought has affected him emotionally. The usual "next-year optimism" of Prairie farmers is taking a beating this year, as the drought is leading to serious financial difficulties for farmers. In this CBC Radio clip, a Saskatchewan bank manager describes the extremely busy summer he's had. He's spent most of his time on the phone talking to desperate farmers on the verge of going broke.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: July 29, 1984
Guest(s): Eric Holt
Host: Lea Morrow
Duration: 5:59

Did You know?

• A 1986 Psychology Today article discussed the psychological toll of drought on farmers. Because their entire identity is usually wrapped up in their farm, struggling farmers can become withdrawn: "They simply don't want to face their friends and neighbours and, especially, their creditors. As one farmer stated, 'You get afraid. You pull into yourself... You don't want to talk to your landlord. You don't want to see your banker. And when that happens, you let them make decisions for you.'"

• In addition to bank loans, farmers can also get some financial security if they invest in government-run crop insurance programs, which have been around since the 1960s. Today, individual provincial governments run crop insurance programs, with some financial help from the federal government. Crop insurance, however, generally doesn't completely compensate a farmer for the devastating losses from a severe drought year.

• Over the years, the federal government has also provided some financial aid for farmers during drought. In 2001, Winnipeg's Frontier Centre for Public Policy asserted "Canadian taxpayers have paid out more than $20-billion in farm subsidies through a variety of ad hoc programs over the past 15 years." But those government subsidies aren't all for drought. The 1999 "farm aid rescue package," for instance, gave $1.5 billion to Canadian farmers to combat competition from Americans and Europeans, who typically get much higher farm subsidies than Canadians.

• In a 1980 CBC Radio report, host Gerry Wade asked Ottawa journalist Gerry Price why the Canadian taxpayers should help subsidize farmers when drought strikes. "Because it's beneficial for the total society that the livestock industry and that stay alive... the red meat industry is an important sector of the entire economy," answered Price, who said he believes the livestock farmers tend to suffer most during times of drought.


Devastating Dry Spells: Drought on the Prairies more