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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?


The horizon is darkening for Alberta farmers. In the midst of the overflow of prosperity from the oilpatch, farmers are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

It used to be that when grain prices were low, cattle prices were high and vice-versa. This diversification helped to keep farmers afloat in years past.

The diverisfication of Alberta farms goes back to the late 19th century when people like George Lane of the Bar U Ranche were calling for change. He prophesied that the days of open range ranching were essentially over, and a diversified cattle-farming had to take its place. That was the genesis of the Alberta feedlot industry. Today, most farmers and ranchers have a bits of both cattle and grain.

But this diversification doesn't cut it anymore. With BSE and the continued price strangling of the Canadian Wheat Board, it is difficult to make a profit. The input costs are so great that the farmer must have a bumper crop just to break-even. And you can guess how infrequent the bumper crops are.

Alberta farmers aren't asking for handouts (you can ignore the few squeaky wheels) they just want the freedom to be able to market their commodities without the hinderance of the government. Even then there isn't much money to be made, but it's better than nothing.

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