Law, Agriculture and the Farm Crisis


155 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895830-00-1
DDC 343'.71'076





Edited by Donald E. Buckingham and Ken Norman
Reviewed by W.J.C. Cherwinski

W.J.C. Cherwinski is a history professor at Memorial University of
Newfoundland and co-author of Lectures in Canadian Labour and
Working-Class History.


This volume, which comprises 16 papers by lawyers, academics,
journalists, civil servants, and politicians, argues that the “farm
cri$i$” of the 1990s necessitates not only greater awareness by the
farming community of what has come to be known as “agricultural law”
but also a more active involvement in the process of lawmaking to ensure
that the impact is minimized.

The “farm cri$i$” is the decline in the price of cereal grains to
the point that, as one author indicates, “our wheat farmers are
receiving about the same for a bushel of wheat as they pay for a gallon
of gasoline.” The inability to pay off immediate expenses, coupled
with long-term obligations, has strained the legal system in several
directions, involving not only federal–provincial relations in the
areas of assistance but also the legal basis for international trade

Most of the essays are meant for lawyers and law-school professors, and
are thus somewhat heavy and esoteric. However, two areas of discussion
regarding the law and the farm are understandable to most Canadians. The
first is the human dimension of the farm crisis. As community
psychologist Nikki Gerrard explains, the level of indebtedness has
played havoc with family life for the average farmer. She cites personal
experiences to make her point and argues that only through more widely
available support services combining mental- with financial-health
counselling (including a knowledge of legal avenues designed to assist)
“can ‘loss’ be transformed to ‘gain.’”

The second area is the matter of “Right to Farm Legislation.” As
urban growth gobbles up thousands of acres of farm land every year, many
of the practices associated with farming are deemed nuisances by city
dwellers. Their protests have resulted in efforts at compromise, but
renewed conflict is just below the surface. According to international
development expert Charles F. Framingham, there is a great need for
legal definitions of “nuisances” as well as of the specific
environmental objectives of Canadian society, so that the interests of
both parties are protected.

While farmers may be no more willing than before to take an interest in
legal matters as their industry grows more complex, as its crises become
more profound, and as it touches more Canadians directly, the need for
greater knowledge from all quarters is necessary. This volume of essays
at least carries the process part way.


“Law, Agriculture and the Farm Crisis,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024,