The Recovering Farmer

Friday, July 30, 2010

At What Cost

In January of this year I attended the annual general meeting of the Keystone Agricultural Producers. One of the speakers featured the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Just over 20 years ago I heard the same speaker speak at a hog producer meeting at the same hotel. I could not help but think back to 1987 and compare topics of concern then compared to 2010. In 1987 the main topics for hog producers centered on Tripartite Stabilization and countervail duties, an American trade action. The hog price at the time hovered around $135 per hog. At the KAP meeting discussion was around Agristability and COOL. Same issues, different names. The hog price at the time was $135 per hog. In the spring of 1987 barley was around $140 per tonne, very similar to 2010. I have never been one to do price comparisons in a grocery store. But when I reflect on the price of raw product being the same now, as it was in 1987, I am curious what the difference would be in the cost of meat at your local grocer. I suspect those prices are very different. It hit me that as much as things change they stay the same.

Input costs, whether for producing livestock or grain, have steadily increased over the years. The only costs lower today, than in 1987, are borrowing costs or interest rates. So as farmers we continue to adapt and change in an effort to produce our commodity in such a way as to eek out a living. As farmers we are proud to be the producers of a low cost food basket. As farmers we remain resilient and keep plugging along. Far too often we are on a treadmill, running but not getting anywhere.

Someone suggested to me, earlier this year, that farming is a good way of life but a poor way to make a living. As farmers we produce the food to feed a small city but find it difficult to feed ourselves. Eventually one has to sit back and wonder at what cost this life style comes. Are we jeopardizing relationships, how is our health, both physically and mentally, what will we retire on. These and many more questions haunt us during the day and keep us awake at nights. Perhaps you need to make changes to become more viable. Perhaps it is time to move on. Perhaps there is something better out there. Perhaps there is life after farming. Think about it. And remember there is hope.

Take the time to evaluate your life. Do an inventory. Often times when I deal with farmers facing uncertain futures we talk about this. Who are we really working for? Who are we really benefiting? Is it worth it? And when we think we are being successful, what is the cost? Make it a good one.

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