Tough Times For Ranchers  


Kamloops This Week
Tough times for ranchers
By Jeremy Deutsch - Kamloops This Week

Published: February 11, 2010 11:00 AM
Updated: February 11, 2010 11:14 AM

By Jeremy Deutsch


The decade may have changed, but the problems in the cattle industry remain.

The outlook for the struggling beef industry in 2010 doesn’t look all that much better than the last few years.

It’s a bleak forecast that brought dozens of ranchers from across the province to a panel discussion on Wednesday on the “current cattle industry meltdown,” hosted by the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association.

While CanFax, a national resource organization for the industry, is cautiously optimistic the cattle industry will begin to rebound this year, one local financial expert sees more uncertainty ahead for ranchers in 2010.

Peter Aarestad, BMO’s commercial banking area manager for Kamloops-Shuswap and South Cariboo, believes much of the factors that have crippled the industry, like the high Canadian dollar and a struggling U.S. economy, will remain for this year.

He said the reality will force some ranchers to make hard decisions on their future.

Aarestad said he’s seen files come across his desk from ranchers who have simply run out of money.

In BMO’s case, he said, the bank will support ranchers to help buy some time.

“At some point, you have a bigger wave in front of you than you can climb over,” he said.

Though he said it’s been years the since the bank foreclosed on a ranch, that could change if present conditions continue.

One idea to help the struggling industry that came out of the day-long discussion is to create a provincial beef-marketing board that would control production and set prices.

The NDP would like to see the government set up policies that move the industry back into the domestic market.

Lana Popham, the NDP’s agriculture critic, suggested the industry is set up to be vulnerable because it’s being sent into the international marketplace.

She noted the province is consuming more beef than what it produces.

“Why are we not marketing this product to our own consumers?” Popham asked.

She argued initiatives like Buy B.C., a program to promote agricultural products produced in the province — which was cut in 2005 — is just one tool that could be used to save the industry.