MP Report by Jay Hill

It?s no longer a question of ?Where?s the beef?? Now Canadian beef producers and consumers alike are asking, ?Where?s the money??

In most grocery stores across the country, consumers haven?t seen a noticeable drop in the price of beef since a single case of BSE, or Mad Cow disease, was discovered on an Alberta farm in May of last year. Yet the prices ranchers and feedlot owners are fetching have plummeted since the BSE crisis hit and they continue to incur heavy losses.

It just doesn?t add up. Someone, somewhere is making a profit while many beef ranchers are literally on the verge of ruin. Canadians have shown tremendous support for the beef industry throughout this crisis, maintaining confidence in the safety of our food chain, a continued willingness to buy Canadian beef and pay for it at the checkout. But what consumers are paying is not making its way to the farm gate.

For example, ?Jane Doe? goes to the supermarket to buy her weekly groceries for her family. Though she sees that steak, hamburgers and roast are pretty much the same price per pound as they?ve always been, she makes a conscious decision to buy beef in an effort to support local beef producers. One might assume her purchase would benefit beef producers, but the supermarket or processing industries only see that consumer demand for beef remains high, so why lower their prices?

The spokesperson for one of Canada?s largest supermarket groups, stated: ?If lowering prices is not going to increase consumptions, then there?s no sense in lowering prices.? In other words, consumers respond to the plight of farmers by maintaining, or increasing, their demand for beef, but unbeknownst to them, their good deed doesn?t trickle down to the farmer because the packing plants and supermarkets only respond to the demand by keeping the prices up. Consumers don?t get a price drop and farmers still get paid peanuts for their beef!

I fully acknowledge and accept that in our free market economy, supply and demand dictates prices. I don?t have a problem with that. Where I do have a problem is that the three major processing and packing companies are making a killing while farmers are going broke.

The federal Competition Bureau announced earlier this month it found no evidence of ?collusion? or price-fixing by packers or retailers and has ruled out an investigation of domestic beef pricing. The competition bureau?s spokesman said, ?Simply failing to pass on savings to consumers is not a violation of the competition Act.?

That may be true, but it should violate Canadian consumers sense of fair play. Canadians deserve credit for the support they have given our beef producers to this point, I?m asking you to take it even further by writing, e-mailing and faxing the Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture. Let them know that they have a responsibility to make the plight of our ranchers their priority. If your displeasure leads to their displeasure, perhaps some of the pressure will come to bear on those ?middlemen? profiting from the misfortune of our farmers.