Where’s the beef…plan?

Dear Editor;

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is very good at

name-calling, but sadly lacking when it comes to laying out a coherent

plan for increasing the money that farmers and ranchers are receiving

for cattle sales.

The CCA affiliates in each province except Alberta collect a checkoff

of $2 per head for every animal sold. In Alberta, the CCA affiliate,

Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), collects even more – $3 per

head. Over the last twenty years, the price of cattle has fallen to

half of what it used to be, but farmers are still forced to pay

millions of dollars of checkoff taxes on cattle–with no choice in

where their money goes. In fact, just since the BSE crisis first hit

in 2003, ABP has collected more than $70 million in a per-head tax

from farmers/ranchers. So where is the 70 million dollar plan to

raise the incomes of Canada’s farmers and ranchers?

Did the CCA think that stopping the Government of Canada from opening

up the books of the packers during the BSE crisis was a plan to help

farmers and ranchers? All that did was make life easier for the

packers and prevent the required information from getting back to

farmers/ranchers and our decision makers.

In 2005, did the CCA oppose the take-over in Ontario of Better Beef by

Cargill? No. In fact, the CCA stood on the sidelines and cheered as

Cargill assumed monopoly control of beef packing in that province.

Ontario now has the lowest priced cattle in Canada. Great for the

packers—but not much of a plan for farmers/ranchers.

Is the CCA opposing the proposed sale of Tyson to XL – a corporate

merger that will further kill competition by reducing the Big Three

(Cargill, Tyson and XL) to the Big Two (Cargill and XL)? No.

The CCA’s $3 per head tax on cattle seems to be enriching packers much

more than farmers/ranchers.

In the study called The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a

New Analysis and New Solutions (available online at www.nfu.ca), the

National Farmers Union lays out a realistic plan to increase the

returns to farmers and ranchers. The first step is to ban packer

ownership and control of cattle in feedlots – otherwise known as

“captive supply”. Captive supply allows packers to manipulate cattle

prices to their advantage. This is a problem not only in Canada, but

also in the United States, and there are growing indications that US

President Obama will tackle this issue sooner rather than later.

So, if you are tired of half-price cattle and want to increase returns

to farmers and ranchers, read the NFU’s cattle brief available at

www.nfu.ca . You don’t have to agree with everything in the plan, but

you won’t find a more comprehensive analysis anywhere, and it is a

starting point for positive change.

Let’s start supporting our farmers and ranchers.

Yours truly,

Stewart Wells

President, National Farmers Union

Swift Current, SK