Government handouts just a Band-Aid

I spent the first part of last week in Toronto discussing the crisis in the beef industry.
I was in a room with more than 150 farmers from all over Ontario who are tired of losing money and don’t know how much longer this can continue.
The minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs asked that, as cattle producers, we come up with a “business risk management proposal”—and it needed to be on her desk by Christmas (I am guessing she plans to work over the holidays).
We spent a good part of one day looking over other “risk management” solutions.
Really, what is comes down to is we were trying to come up with an insurance policy. The sad part was we’re trying to come up with something that would cover the cost of production, not profit.
There wasn’t one producer in the room who was looking for an “ad hoc” payment. Really, in the past these payments were far from covering the cost of a feed bill or fuel bill (as a matter of fact, they were almost an insult).
A majority of the money normally ends up in the hands of some large industry player.
The government handouts are just a Band-Aid to a very large problem. The fact of the matter is we are selling our product for prices that were similar to the late 1960s and early ’70s while our input costs are that of 2009.
No matter how efficient, how big, or how many hours you work, you simply cannot make money.
For those with off-farm jobs, that is what is making the ends meet. But many farm wives are tired of working hard off the farm to ensure the bills are paid.
So, after hours of brain-storming, we did come up with various proposals the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association could take to the minister for Christmas. But the bottom line is that to pay the cost of production to each beef producer in the province of Ontario would likely be a $300 million-plus program.
Where will that money come from?
Again, that is just to cover costs–not to make a profit on the farm.
I’m sure most of you wonder why we continue to farm when we are not making any money. Well, it’s plain and simple: it is a way of life, it is enjoyable, and it is a good feeling to be growing food.
No doubt if we were true business men and women, we would be long gone. But what would we do with our land, our equipment, and our homes? Where would your food come from?
We all need to stop and think about how serious it would be if lost our beef production industry.
Soon we will be able to use our new abattoir. This will be a benefit to our local region, but by no means will all of our product be consumed here. Still, please take the time to stop and think about where your meat comes from, no matter if it is beef, pork, or chicken.
If you take the time to shop local, you should be satisfied in knowing where the meat came from–a healthy, happy cow!
After all, our cattle live on open green pastures, where they can exercise, lie down, and soak up the sun!
• • •
The Rainy River Soil & Crop Association held its annual meeting last Wednesday and had a jammed-packed agenda!
My boss flew in and talked a bit about how our research funding and proposals were put on the table. The pre-feasibility study for a pellet plant also was shared.
Meanwhile, Deb Cornell shared some of the information gathered on the vegetable trials over the past summer, and hopes we can continue with these.
John MacGregor of Manitoba gave us some interesting facts on grass-fed beef and pasture species while Larry Lamb shared all his hard work and hopes for the miscanthus grass trials.
As well, we shared an update from the current producer trials of reed canary grass and switchgrass, and I tried to give a brief rundown on our summer trials at the research station.
So, this was a busy meeting—and most of the discussion needs to continue!
• • •
Since I spent most of the week away, I ended up missing most of “Holly Daze” in Emo, but I heard you had a wonderful parade and fireworks display. Good work!
I had to catch up on chores (when I go away, I try and guess how much hay to leave out and then have to feed everyone upon my return!)
Plus, I’m still trying to wash walls and decorate for Santa!

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