COMMENTARY

Going broke in BC
Competition from biofuel industry in Canada sending
farmers into debt they can't get out of.

Posted April 12, 2007

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NF


We raise beef cattle in British Columbia and have farmed here since 1877. Paul Beingessner is right in his latest Letter from Saskatchewan; thousands of Canadian farmers will go broke because of biofuel. This is the worst it has been since the Great Depression. We were in the hole for three years because of BSE. Then prices dropped a further $0.20 a pound last November, because feedlots that buy our cattle have to pay more for grain and corn due to competition for feed grains from biofuel.

There isn't much else that we can raise on our ranch but beef. After 130 years, we may have to go out of the cattle business before going so far into debt that we lose the ranch. We are direct marketing some of our beef as “organic grass-fed beef,” but because of global warming and a 10-year drought, our grass isn't that good for fattening. There are about 5,000 farmers in BC that are in the same predicament as we are.

Paul mentioned the cancellation of Crow Rate that subsidized grain coming into BC. That hurt BC Ranchers as well, because local feedlots could not afford the higher grain prices and went out of business. Our BC cattle are trucked to the prairies for fattening. If BC and prairie farmers start selling off their herds and flood the market, that could really hit farm prices this fall.

Harold Steves
British Columbia