The depressed cattle market price situation was the theme that drew more than 80 farmers and ranchers to attend a producer meeting held here at the end of January. It was the first in a series of meetings organized by the National Farmers Union (NFU) in Alberta. These meetings follow others held by the NFU in Ontario and are part of a cross-country tour to highlight a study called The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions. (see AF December 1, 2008).
The study was done by Darrin Qualman, Director of Research with the NFU, who was also the presenter at the meeting.
“We had a very good turnout in Ontario and real enthusiasm, I feel farmers are really stymied with trying to figure out what has gone wrong with the cattle market over the past few years and what to do about it.”
Qualman and the NFU spent about a year developing the report in consultation with producers from across Canada.
“It was our intention to release the report, to build on it, to have meetings, to get the word out, to build farmer support and to push for changes. The idea is to urge at least a thousand farmers to work through their organizations, to pass resolutions against such things as captive supply. We believe there is a real possibility for change,” he said
Qualman said that the NFU has also been an intervenor at the competition tribunal hearings over the sale of the Tyson Lakeside plant in Brooks to XL Foods. They are opposed to the sale because it would lessen competition in the fed cattle market. When asked about the possibility of a plant closure which would make the situation worse, Qualman said that perhaps farmers and the government should buy the plant and perhaps operate it in partnership with an Asian food retailer.
Qualman’s presentation noted that the price received by producaers today is essentially one-half of what they had been receiving prior to 1989. It also noted that the share taken by packers and retailers is approximately equal to that lost by producers. “It seems to me that the retailer could be taking less of a share,” Qualman said.
The meeting concluded with 16 solutions that would increase the farmer’s power in the ongoing cattle sector marketing crisis. The full report is available at www.nfu.ca