The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture has released the first phase of its report on rural poverty.

Chairperson Joyce Fairbairn says the document, titled Understanding Free Fall: The Challenge Of The Rural Poor, asks a very fundamental question.

That being whether rural Canadians have the right to enjoy the same quality of life as other Canadians, or are they second-class citizens?

Fairbairn adds the foundation on which rural Canada is built is experiencing severe financial stress.

She says one of the most worrying trends is the loss of the next generation of producers as an increasing number of youth leave the farm to find alternative employment in urban areas.

With this phase of its study completed, the Committee will begin visiting rural communities across the country in the new year to obtain advice from rural Canadians on how best to deal with the problems of rural poverty.

The Committee expects to table its final report, with recommendations to government, in 2007.