I hear and understand some of the issues that consumers have with the supply management structure. I do at times struggle with other farmers criticizing the supply management structure and saying that “it has to go.” Why would a member of the farmer brethren, a fellow peer, a guy that farms right beside a dairy farmer say such a thing?
I asked some cash croppers this week in Southern Alberta and in Ontario and it usually comes down to one real reason……the ability to buy land. Many cash croppers from across the country believe that because dairy and chicken farmers have economic certainty they have the advantage in bidding up land in comparison to cash croppers. Taking it farther they believe that the government is indirectly subsidizing certain types of farmers to buy land over others.
With the price of soybeans, corn and canola right now cash croppers are not starving to death but the feeling is that these prices are not guaranteed to be reality forever or even next week. Supply management farmers have a very good idea that the spread between their cost of production and the price they get for their product will be maintained. Due to this lack of volatility on the gross margin spread, banks are more willing to lend money for land.
In Southern Alberta in the late nineties feedyards were the ones scooping up all the land. The cattle feeding industry was economically strong and there were incentives for rapid expansion of the industry. Cash croppers couldn’t even touch some of the prices being paid for irrigated land. Ironically, now some of those same feed yards have sold land to the cash croppers as the cattle feeding industry has significantly weakened economically.
Is the attitude towards supply managementby cash croppers just jealously, sour grapes, or reality? Do dairy farmers have what feedyards, ranchers and cash croppers really desire? As a cash cropper do you really lose land deals to dairy farmers because of the quota? Is this whole thing overblown and in reality the farmer brethren needs to stick together a little bit more in the face of urban sprawl and lack of understanding of agriculture by the urbanite? Lots of questions, not many answers…….