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Beef processors don’t need another subsidy

As a cattle producer, I question the motives of those who are prepared to give Canada’s largest cattle processors another subsidy as cited in the story “Tories accused of stalling SRM subsidy, Manitoba Co-operator Dec. 17.

Brad Wildeman claims to represent primary producers (cow-calf operators) in his function as head of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. But his actions appear to favour the feedlot-packing sectors.

Everyone knows that these large packers and feedlots pass along their costs. Thus, the primary producer pays for this uncompetitiveness between Canada and the U. S. The $31-per-head payment should go to primary producers, not the packers. Of course, if it was paid to primary producers, the packers and feedlots would just lower the price they pay for feeders similar to what they did when the various BSE cull compensation programs ran.

If it is paid to these entities, are they going to immediately raise the price they pay for feeders? I doubt it.

I would even suggest that Wildeman is in a conflict of interest, as he runs or manages a large feedlot himself. Any feedlot, or packer, is out to make the most profit they can, which means they want to buy feeders at the lowest price. The two sectors have opposing objectives; producers want to receive high feeder prices, feedlots want to pay low prices.

When the National Farmer’s Union published a detailed study of the cattle sector, the CCA’s only response was to increase exports and domestic consumption, while protecting the status quo. Even if you disagree with the NFU study, it did make several good points. The CCA suggests all our troubles would simply vanish with more exports and higher consumption. Well, we’ve increased exports ever since free trade, and it has only made things worse. More consolidation and less competition.

Why is it that not a single industry stakeholder nor politician has suggested an indepth study to determine where, and what share of the pie, each sector is making. Under supply management, each sector; the producer, the processor, and the retailer; share the pie. For the most part, there is not too much argument and each sector appears to be profitable.

We don’t necessarily need to control supply and demand, as all the opponents will say. All we need to do is regulate the pie to ensure each sector is receiving its fair share. When you have only two large packers processing 80 per cent of the beef in the entire country, you no longer have competition. They are oligopolies and they know that they have a captive supply. Until this is fixed, the cattle industry will suffer at their mercy.

Robert Vosters Marquette, Man. lopsided election rules, only old-guard directors had access to the voters’ list, while 25 per cent of the ballots were deemed “spoiled.” Still, of the four “for change” candidates, I received 55 per cent of voters’ support. Another was tied for last place. Instead of resolving the tie then and there, the board-preferred candidate was declared elected at a process shadier than the original count.

Seven of the eight directors then spent tens of thousands of farmers’ money, as if their own cookie jar, fighting farmers’ legal right of access to the voters’ list and would not, except under court order clean up a voters’ list which proved beyond any doubt the president received at least two ballots and many others as many as six.

And this year’s election? With one of the latest fall seasons behind us, I urge farmers to review what happened. At the last annual meeting, farmers first had to fight just to vote on resolutions like vote123. After adoption by a wide margin, several directors shamelessly insisted they knew better what was good for farmers, claiming the resolutions were “only advice to the board.”

After much wringing of hands, president Rob Pettinger finally in a September Manitoba Co-operator issue whistled, “The members wanted it and we didn’t see any reason not to do it.” Really?

Contrary to the adopted resolution requiring every elected candidate to have a majority, the board fabricated rules worse than previous elections. Previously, some directors were always elected by a majority. This year? Not one! The best having a 25 per cent plurality. Never ever were the “elected” so poorly supported.

When Rob and not the so-called independent election co-ordinator called to inform me of election night results, and I asked about these obviously pathetic results, in one breath Rob admitted the board made a mistake, but then, unlike KPMG, who got the first CWB election wrong and corrected the process, was adamant these results would stand.

Eduard Hiebert St. Francois Xavier

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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