More production doesn’t equal more profit
I would like to commend you for your excellent opinion column in the September 14 issue (“Same old, same old is not what is needed now). It is refreshing to hear someone challenge the conventional thinking (or lack of) that dominates Alberta and Canadian agriculture policy. You rightly highlight the fact that the greatly expanded production of cattle and hogs has done nothing to increase profitability for producers – in fact exactly the opposite is the case. Data collected by the National Farmers Union for their landmark “Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector” document clearly showed that the effect on producers has been a halving of the cattle prices they receive when adjusted for inflation. Yet time and again we hear politicians and cattle industry groups like CCA and ABP bemoan the lack of “market access” which they claim would earn us increased prices for our cattle. You are right to question why it would have this effect – it hasn’t in the past so why should it work in the future? As always in Alberta where so many in power are hung up on the mantra of “free trade” it seems the facts are negotiable as long as the ideology never wavers.
I also think that the people seeking to destroy supply management are doing it for equally unsound reasons. Time and again we hear that our beef exports and “market access” are frustrated by supply management. I like to challenge people claiming this to name one country in the world that has said it would either start or increase its purchase of Canadian beef if we did away with supply management. I have yet to hear the name of one country in reply.
The only part missing from your column was any mention of the role of the processors and retailers on prices producers receive. In my opinion they are the only real beneficiaries of the global marketplace while producers go bankrupt and consumers pay a hefty price both for the food in the store and through their taxes for the farm support programs.