Saskatoon, Sask. – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on the federal government to provide assistance for cattle farmers who have suffered severe economic losses as a result of flooding. A total of 10 million acres went unseeded in Manitoba and Saskatchewan last year, and current projections are for between 6-8 million this year. Cattle farmers have had to contend with flooded pastureland and hay fields, transportation costs for moving cattle to dry community or rented pastures, and high feed costs. “Prairie cattle farmers have suffered significant losses due to the flooding, and things don’t look any better this year. Cattle farmers are in the midst of a decade-long income crisis. It is absolutely imperative that the federal government step in,” stated NFU Region 5 (Manitoba) Coordinator Ian Robson.
Last year the federal government established a $30 payment per flooded acre for crop farmers, but no such program was established for cattle farmers. For many cattle farmers the flooding caused losses equivalent to those suffered by crop farmers. In May, the Manitoba government introduced programs to assist its cattle farmers, but it has been acknowledged that much more needs to be done.
At the same time, there are many crop farmers who were kept out of their fields in the spring, and who are looking to plant a crop of some kind. For these crop farmers, harvesting a high quality crop on these acres is not realistic. However, planting feed crops presents a good option.
“We need a program to provide assistance to cattle farmers, and to help cattle farmers and crop farmers enter into a feed planting agreement, weather permitting. Such a program could give crop farmers incentive to plant a feed crop and make arrangements with a cattle farmer who is in dire need of feed,” stated Robson.
The program that the NFU is calling for has two parts:
1) a payment to cattle farmers of $150 per head
2) a registry to help cattle farmers and potential green feed growers contact each
other in order to make arrangements for a feed planting/purchase agreementCanadian cattle farmers have endured an income crisis that began in the late 1980s and seriously intensified in the early 2000s, due to low prices. The main cause of the income crisis has been the high degree of concentration in the cattle sector. Currently only two firms control 80% of Canada’s beef packing industry, which has given these firms the ability to bid prices down to record low levels. As a result, cash-strapped cattle farmers are hyper-sensitive to natural calamities such as the flooding experienced over the last two years.
“We can’t forget about our cattle farmers. They have been suffering through a long income crisis. Here’s a way that we can help them out, and help the crop farmers out at the same time,” said Robson.