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Letters – for Mar. 5, 2009

Where’s the beef… plan?

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is very good at name-calling, but sadly lacking when it comes to laying out a coherent plan for increasing the money that farmers and ranchers are receiving for cattle sales.

The CCA affiliates in each province except Alberta collect a checkoff of $2 per head for every animal sold. In Alberta, the CCA affiliate, Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), collects even more – $3 per head. Over the last 20 years, the price of cattle has fallen to half of what it used to be, but farmers are still forced to pay millions of dollars of checkoff taxes on cattle – with no choice in where their money goes.

In fact, just since the BSE crisis first hit in 2003, ABP has collected more than $70 million in a per-head tax from farmers/ ranchers. So where is the $70 million plan to raise the incomes of Canada’s farmers and ranchers?

Did the CCA think that stopping the Government of Canada from opening up the books of the packers during the BSE crisis was a plan to help farmers and ranchers? All that did was make life easier for the packers.

In 2005, did the CCA oppose the takeover in Ontario of Better Beef by Cargill? No. Ontario now has the lowest-priced cattle in Canada.

Is the CCA opposing the proposed sale of Tyson to XL – a corporate merger that will further kill competition by reducing the Big Three (Cargill, Tyson and XL) to the Big Two (Cargill and XL)? No.

The CCA’s $3-per-head tax on cattle seems to be enriching packers much more than farmers/ranchers.

In the study called The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions (available online at www.nfu.ca),the National Farmers Union lays out a realistic plan to increase the returns to farmers and ranchers. The first step is to ban packer ownership and control of cattle in feedlots – otherwise known as “captive supply.” Captive supply allows packers to manipulate cattle prices to their advantage.

So, if you are tired of half-price cattle and want to increase returns to farmers and ranchers, read the NFU’s cattle brief available at www.nfu.ca.You don’t have to agree with everything in the plan, but you won’t find a more comprehensive analysis anywhere, and it is a starting point for positive change.

Let’s start supporting our farmers and ranchers.

Stewart Wells President, National

Farmers Union Swift Current, Sask.

Clarifying Sunflower Insecticides And Bees

I appreciate the Manitoba Co-operator helping to get the message out regarding the issue of managing insects on sunflowers while minimizing harm to bees.

However, there are some points I want to clarify in the article “Beekeepers Urge Restraint when Spraying Sunflowers.” I am quoted as saying only one insecticide does not kill bees on direct contact. I worry that farmers will think that there is only one insecticide on the market that does not kill bees on direct contact. There are many insecticides that will not kill bees on direct contact. However, only one is registered for sunflowers. Unfortunately, this product is specific to Lepidoptera larvae and is often not the most practical choice. More sunflower insecticide options that are low risk to bees are certainly needed in sunflowers.

I am also quoted as saying there are no non-residual insecticides, although some break down faster than others. Again, there are many insecticides that have little or no residual and kill on contact only. But none of these are registered for sunflowers. All registered sunflower insecticides have some residual activity. Confusion on this issue is escalated by claims, often from processors, that some insecticides registered against seed weevils in sunflowers have longer residuals against the target pests than others. Data I have seen does not show this.

As well, the article states “… MBA at its annual meeting last fall calls for growers to use only contact non-residual insecticides in sunflower fields.”

This may lead some to believe such options exist. Unfortunately, they do not. I suspect what is desired is for growers applying insecticides to sunflowers in bloom to select insecticides registered for the targeted pest insect that have the least residual hazard to honeybees. A list of residual hazards to bees is found on page 344 of our Guide to Crop Protection.

It is great that you were able to include information on how to minimize bee kills, something that is good to reinforce. Evening applications and educated choices of products can certainly help reduce problems.

John Gavloski Extension Entomologist

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

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

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