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Comment: Affordability key to participation in beef programs

Canadian beef producers don’t enjoy the support their counterparts in the U.S. do

I wanted to applaud the recent Manitoba Co-operator editorial “A tale of two programs.” I read it in Alberta Farmer, where it was reprinted. As chair of the Alberta Beef Producers, it reflected many of my own views through this drought.

We began to realize on July 9 that crops and cattle feed were deteriorating extremely rapidly due to lack of moisture and extreme environmental temperatures. So began the government lobbying and discussions with AFSC as to the rapidly unfolding situation. This was further aggravated by Americans purchasing large quantities of hay as their drought relief and feed need payments arrived in May, further driving up prices of an already rapidly deteriorating commodity.

We recently attended the NCBA convention in Nashville and had some interesting discussions with the private insurance companies that provide ag insurance. It seems that the uptake of livestock price insurance as well as feed insurance was dismal, similar to what we are seeing here, until premiums became affordable when the government agreed to pay half.

Our jaws dropped at this piece of information — that is half of all ag premiums are subsidized by their federal government. The result is a product that is now affordable that works. Similarly, ranchers from South Dakota told us that as soon as a county is declared an ag disaster, their programs are triggered and payments appropriated immediately.

As we move into winter, and before we see what moisture spring hopefully brings, I want ABP to push for programs that are financially feasible with clearly defined triggers that allow for rapid payouts. This will allow us to better compete with our producers to the south and to hopefully maintain mother cow numbers.

The Alberta government continually reiterates that agriculture will lead economic recovery in our province. Beef has overtaken oil as the No. 1 supplier to the province’s GDP… estimated at $4.6 billion annually. We rely on variables out of our control — primarily weather. It is time that government and consumers give us the opportunity to manage our risk fairly across all ag commodities.

I realize that I am preaching to the choir. The drought and “program” negotiations have been my life as well as those of the staff at ABP for two months. The only way to move forward is to keep pushing for better options.

For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.

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