BSE, Farmers and Rural Communities: Impacts and Responses
Troy Stozek, MEnv candidate
University of Manitoba
2005 – present
The discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in a Canada-born cow resulted in what many consider the worst crisis since the “dirty thirties” across Canada’s rural landscape. Many farmers’ livelihoods were placed at risk after the discovery of BSE in a Canada-born cow and the subsequent international border closures to Canadian live and finished cattle, beef products and other livestock in May 2003.
Although BSE has drawn much media and government attention, there is still very little known about the impacts it has had on livestock producers at the farm level and, especially, the “spillover” effects on rural communities as a whole. Local businesses have closed, equity has been drawn from and stress levels were high throughout many rural communities across the Prairies. And, in many cases, it continues.
Many feel that the crisis was over when the border between the US and Canada was finally (partially) opened in July 2005. However, others worry that the effects of BSE continue, these aggravated by recent extreme weather conditions, high farm input costs declining commodity prices, and other such realities. Furthermore, many argue that BSE is merely one of many significant risks that farmers and rural residents presently face.
Many others showed remarkable resilience throughout the crisis and beyond. It is not our hope to dwell entirely on the negative aspects of the “BSE crisis” but, rather, to paint as accurate a picture as possible of the entire spectrum of stakeholders in the BSE debate. Thus, we hope to better understand those who were not adversely affected by BSE or who benefited from it.
However, with family farms and the rural communities they comprise increasingly in a state of overall decline from risks such as BSE and myriad others, we feel it has never been more essential to understand and communicate such risks, and to do so in a way that includes the voices of those affected most by them – farmers and rural residents.
The purpose of this research is to gain a better understanding of the wider socio-economic and environmental implications of risks such as BSE in rural Western Canada.
More specifically, we will:
- Identify the social, economic, and environmental effects BSE has had and/or continues to have on producers and rural communities;
- Locate BSE among a wider set of risks and vulnerabilities farmers and rural communities face in Western Canada (e.g. other livestock disease, wider structural changes in occurring in agriculture, etc.);
- Better understand factors related to farmer and rural resilience to risks such as BSE;
- Discuss and communicate the implications of risks and vulnerabilities that farmers and rural residents faced throughout the BSE crisis and continue to face into the future.
- Mail out surveys
- Individual interviews
- Focus group interviews
- Audio and Video documetation/communication
- GIS Spatial mapping/analysis
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)