Beef announcement doesn't go far enough

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Industry stakeholders applaud interest-relief program

COLLINGWOOD - Not everyone is so enthusiastic with a new government program aimed at helping beef farmers through a number of ongoing challenges faced by the industry.

Soon after Agriculture Minister John MacDonell announced the $2-milion Nova Scotia Beef Interest Pay-Down Program, Collingwood beef farmer Kurt Sherman panned the program saying it won't do enough to help those farmers on the verge of going out of business.

"It looks like a load crap, mostly," Sherman said. "I checked out it and it doesn't look like it will help me one bit. They're making big fanfare out this, but I doubt I could get it if I wanted it."

Sherman, who resigned from the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers Association in the fall because of a lack of action by the government, said the program should help those farmers who aren't hurting as much. He said small farms and hobby farmers will definitely benefit from the assistance.

The program will provide three years interest relief for eligible beef farmers on their short-term loans.

Richard Melvin of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture is applauding the program.

"We have witnessed the tremendous hurt which terrible market conditions have inflicted upon our beef farmers over the past several years. We are pleased that the cattle producers association have shown great discipline in working with the department to obtain this support for beef farmers over the next several years," Melvin, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, said.

The program will be delivered beginning Jan. 26 by the federation. Farmers can file a one-page application, complete with signatures from their financial lenders to have interst paid on their short-term loans for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Cattle producers president Dave Oulton said farmers are facing tremendous pressure to stay in business and feels this program will be a huge help.

"This is clearly a statement of interim support for a rural industry by the people of Nova Scotia. We appreciate that this support carries with it the challenge to identify and implement long-term production strategies leading to stability for our sector ands afe, locally sourced beef for our province," said Oulton.

MacDonell pledged to support beef farmers soon after taking office but was criticized in some circles for taking too long to deliver.

Sherman said the program doesn't give farmers what they need most, operating cash and doesn't address terrible market conditions in which cull cows are running around the same price as 1976.

Sherman said local producers have to get a slice of the retail market and that means consumers have to be willing to pay a little more to get beef they know is locally-produced.

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Nova Scotia Cattle Producers Association

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • HB
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Ah yes, but they have found a way to lower costs - it's called factory farming, made possible by using growth hormones, inhumane treatment and subsidized corn production, run by big corporations. It's the reason a head of lettuce costs more than a pound of beef, which is ridiculous. You're not paying the true price of beef at the grocery store now, and the beef you're getting is unhealthy crap. Because it's artificially cheap you're eating way more of it than ever before, thus the obesity and heart disease epidemic. You're being sold a lie.

    It's expensive to produce simply because stuff costs money. Of course you raise prices for consumers when costs go up - that's how business works. Dairy got it right a long time ago. Sure, milk seems expensive, but only because that's what it takes to produce and sustain the providers. That's why we don't have imported Chinese dairy products full of who knows what.

    Simply raising prices/taxes is not the answer, why not take an already working model and adopt it. There's nothing wrong with paying a fair price for a quality product, creating a sustainable local economy, especially when it's something as important as what goes into your body.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Yes but that doesnt address the core issues of why its so expensive to produce in the first place. All youre doing is raising the price for the consumer to offset losses. Youre not lowering actual costs to produce. It shouldnt be up to Joe Blow to continually increase his budget to offset unprofitable businesses. The issue lies with how much it costs to produce, not how much it costs to buy. We have a mindset in this country that forces us to simply raise prices to offset low efficiencies/productivities instead of fixing the problems in the first place. It shouldnt be up to us to burden the cost of a broken system. It should be up to those who operate the system to fix. If theyre unwilling then they should be left to suffer as a consequence of it. Its about time folks started to think of the consumers. Stop raising our costs to fix your problems. Find a way that helps you without hurting us.

  • HB
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    The answer to the problem is simple, it's just that no politician has the guts to propose it. Just regulate it like dairy, with quotas going to in-province producers first.

    Of course, your cost of beef at the supermarket will rise dramatically, as you'd be paying what it actually costs. However, we're all paying for it now anyway through tax dollars and subsidized factory farming.

    That will mean we may eat less red meat. However, the meat we eat would mostly be local and better quality. It would also have the effect of lowering health care costs in the long run too.

    Simple solution, just not large western corporation friendly which is probably why it won't see the light of day.

  • kurt
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Albert beef producers are quitting at alarming rates too, they are in the same broken market,,and it wasn't meant that china is the only alternative. The truth is all of agriculture is hurting to a degree, all across the country, we , as a country are at risk of losing the ability to feed ourselves. Can we afford to depend on foreigners to feed us ( and by afford I'm not limiting this to $$).
    You are paying $30 per kg for T bone, there should be enough in that to allow all of us a living, but we don't get ours ,it doesn't trickle down.We can't force more out of the packers because they can import cheaper, their interest is margins ,not quality. If we had fair trade rather than free trade might help, but the farmers are too few to force the change, There is an interesting video created by Hellmans, go to youtube and search Hellmanns.wmv it explains allot

  • Scooter Girl
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money
    - Cree Prophecy

    I think this says it all.

  • Ticked Off
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Why does the public tax dollars have to keep bailing these businesses out of trouble??? Farming, fishing, forestry, callcenters and so on. If you can't make money at it get the hell out. You can work at McDonalds or Walmart for more than you are making now. Stop looking for charity.

  • Troy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    scooter girl,,,,you need to be up in the artic saving a seal,,,,98% of the people in this world aren't tree huggers,,we need to live and if it were up to you and your possy we would all be eating leaves and drinking water from puddles......

  • HB
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I get what you're saying Greg, yes we already are enjoying the alternative, and the current system is working for consumers - at the moment. It's not working for NS farmers, and many would say too bad, so sad, stop farming and get a job. I completely agree with not propping up unsustainable business at taxpayers expense too.

    However, it gets a little more complicated because we're talking about food. The quality of our food, beef in particular, has gone downhill in the last 20 years due to factory farming. We have become dependent on Alberta for our beef, and Alberta beef is not what it used to be, and it's not getting better. The agriculture industry has been monopolized and we now depend Monsanto and Cargill for all of our food.

    It's not hard to imagine beef being imported in the near future from parts unknown, as soon as the mega corporations figure out a way to save 5 cents. Say bye bye to Canadian farming, along with food safety regulations. Even then, it's not the end of the world for consumers - until speculators start monkeying with the pricing, like they do for oil and everything else now.

    In short, many people would rather preserve a sustainable local agriculture industry mostly so that we are not held hostage by greedy bankster run corporations for our supper. The system, as it stands now, is certainly heading that way. There are reasons to hand on to and support local staple industries - just ask New Brunswickers why they want to keep NB Power.

    Saving 5 cents right now is not always the best thing.

  • HB
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Nobody said our beef comes from China. by and large it does come from Alberta - for now. But you're deluding yourself if you don't think it doesn't come from mass feedlots, hormone injections and all. You can thank the FTA for this. However, even this trend can't continue forever, and it's entirely possible that beef could come from China in the future if things don't change.

    http://albertaviews.ab.ca/PhillipsOct09.html

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    My point, HB, is that a lot of speculation and claims are being made about what would happen to our food supply if NS farmers are not able to make a go of it. The fact is, as Robert stated, there are alternatives readily available to us. Porter's five-force model of competiton shows that one of the 5 main competitive threats facing business is the threat of substitute products, and in order to combat that threat the producer needs make his product more valuable to the consumer, not more expensive. The people who are responsible for creating that competitive advantage are the NS Beef producers ... not the consumers.

  • Dee
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    As the old adage goes,
    You'll never miss the milk til the cow runs dry or smae with farming ... Farming is the very backbone of this community. The people work long hard hours to keep food affordable and food on our tables. If Gov't assistance can enhance sustainability and encourage farmers to keep on keeping on we should do all we can to endorse their efforts. As for the first comment ..if their are no potatoe to deep fry and no beef for the grill little use in going to MacDonlds. think about it!
    d.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I'm not sure what we can give these farmers, other than constant cash, that will help them in the long run. We can't set market conditions without tarriffs (which aren't legal in most cases), we can't force folks to buy local (if the alternative is much cheaper) and we can't force producers to lower their own costs (if at all able). It's really a no win situation. If we throw money at them now it'll only delay what looks like the inevitable. In a year or two they'll be back for the same reasons and nothing will have changed. It appears that the entire system, from the way farms are run to the way markets are controlled, is broken. The entire system is broken right from the farms up. It just seems we keep throwing more money at a problem that isn't going to go away. It may be time to allow the free market to work as it should. Throwing money at the farmers is not going to lower costs or raise profits. It's a bandaid solution that will fix nothing.

    IMO as always.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    So what do you expect us to do about it? Increase already outragous grocery bills instead of using an already accessable alternative? You can't sell cattle at a profit compared to what it once was, I understand that, but we just cannot keep paying higher and higher prices to compensate. Our budgets, much like yours, only go so far. By that logic pretty soon we'll be operating at a loss, compared to the past, and will no longer be able to afford to buy groceries like we once did. It's a vicious circle and it has to end somewhere. I'm tired of walking out of the grocery after spending 150 bucks for 6 bags of food. I certainly do not want it to drop to 5 or 4 bags for the same price. Your fight is with the packers and retailers... not with us yet we suffer collateral damage as a result and I, for one, am growing tired of it. Harsh as it sounds that's my opinion.

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Hmmmm, there is a lot of information being thrown around here, and a lot of perspectives, and I as a NS resident was not aware of much of this.

    For instance, I was not aware that the only alternative to NS beef was to buy it from China or India. And all along I thought Loblaws and Sobeys were getting the majority of their beef from some place called Alberta.

    I also didn't know that if the NS beef producers weren't able to survive that we would all run the risk of being hungry. You mean to tell me that there are no other sources of food?

    All NS cattle farmers are 100% efficient! That's amazing, yet Alberta growers can produce some of the highest quality meat (without all the hormones and crazy corn) and still sell it cheaper? Maybe it has something to do with economies of scale where NS farmers are not quite as efficient.

    I agree with the first part of #4, it is society's burden to feed itself. And yet, as we carry that burden and successfully nourish our families, NS farmers continue to struggle ... I think that puts the onus squarely on you guys to fix the problem, become competitive or die ... welcome to business in the year 2010!

    All that being said, I enjoy NS Beef! I pay a little more for it when I buy it directly from the producer everytime I BBQ. I consider it somewhat of a luxury, like I used to do with lobster. But in tough economics times, many people need to set aside the luxury and save money where they can, and if that means buying beef from away, or buying a box of KD instead of a roast, that's the reality you have to deal with.

  • Kurt
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    some of you have no idea and some of you are on the right track. The reality is that the public is paying most of the cost of production now. On my end of the production chain calves that brought me $1.40 per pound live weight in 2002 are now bringing around 80 cents. Finished cattle hanging on the rail at the PEI plant this week brought $1.31, the same cattle were bringing $2.05 the day before the mad cow scare in 2003. How much cheaper is your beef today than in 2003.The system IS broken and producers and consumers are being screwed.

    I have to reply to Robert who said : to simply raise prices to offset low efficiencies/productivities instead of fixing the problems in the first place. It shouldnt be up to us to burden the cost of a broken system. It should be up to those who operate the system to fix. If theyre unwilling then they should be left to suffer as a consequence of it. Its about time folks started to think of the consumers. Stop raising our costs to fix your problems.
    1) there are no inefficiencies in the local beef industry, anyone who has any amount of cattle has efficiency figured out, inefficient producers changed or left long ago.
    2) the marketing system is broke and we as farmers can't fix it, we have 2 major packers in North America and 3 major retailers in Atlantic Canada, they pay us what they want for cattle and charge you whatever you can stand for beef
    3) everyone in our supply chain is gradually increasing our cost of production, apparently not everyone is happy to charge or earn what they did back in the 70's today.
    4) it IS societies burden to shoulder the cost of feeding itself, why should farmers be expected to subsidise that ?
    5) it's not up to us to make the changes to fix it , we don't have enough votes,about 2% of the population produces the food for the other 98%. Those left to suffer the consequences if it's left unbroken will be the 98% who run the risk of being hungry once they become dependant on India and China to feed them.
    I bought my first calf in 1978 and paid $1.04 per pound for a hereford steer at 500 lb, if he was in the sale last Thursday he would have brought around 80 cents, that's the reality of what we face and yesterdays announcement is akin to lighting a candle in a cold room, yes it's heat but how much difference will it make.

  • camac
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Ticked Off from NS......Although I do agree there are far too many bailouts being handed out to a large variety of businesses in this country, farmers should be an exception to your beef (no pun intended). Where would we be without farmers?