Struggling beef farmers told to reconsider career path if theyre not making money
News they didn't want to hear
MURRAY SIDING - Telling struggling beef farmers they should leave the industry if they cannot make a profit was not exactly the news they wanted to hear.
But that is precisely the message some participants at an agriculture candidates' forum at the cattle auction facility in Murray Siding came away with after listening to outgoing Colchester Musquodobit Valley MLA Brooke Taylor.
"Brooke basically told us to get out of farming," said Marsha Weatherby, who attended the combined forum and auction along with husband Larry.
The couple, who operate a beef farm in the Harmony area, were referring to comments made by Taylor during his presentation in which he suggested farmers who are struggling to make ends meet may want to reconsider their career path.
Taylor said his Conservative party's agriculture strategy is a framework that identifies solutions "to be profitable in a new economy" but is not intended to promote the beef industry's dependency on adhoc programs.
While Taylor said he is not promoting an overall exit strategy for struggling farmers, a Conservative government would be prepared to work one-on-one with farmers to help define their direction. Ultimately, however, individual farmers "will have to determine what is best for them and their families," he said. "Unfortunately, there will be some casualties along the way."
To the Weatherbys, who said Taylor reiterated that sentiment when they spoke with him following the presentations, the message was clear.
"He's just saying, if you are not making money, get out," Larry Weatherby said. "I'm very disappointed in the Conservative's platform on agriculture, period."
John Tilley, vice-chairman of the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers, which hosted the event, said he, too, is disappointed in the Conservative's position on agriculture. And while some support has come from the government for the industry, he said, "we've got a real problem with the document (released early this spring) that says they put in $40 million."
That position was repeated by Brooke who stated during his presentation that the government has provided $40 million to the beef sector since the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) crisis developed in the spring of 2003.
Tilly, however, issued a press release that suggests the document contains inaccuracies in three specific calculations and that the actual amount contributed by the government is much less.
Colchester Musquodobit Valley riding Liberal candidate Willy Versteeg, who also participated in the forum, told the audience that making agriculture work in Nova Scotia "needs to be an absolute priority. He referred to the promises laid out last week by leader Stephen MacNeil during a campaign stop in East Stewiacke.
That plan calls for the development of a steering committee to assist with the implementation of carbon capture technology; the establishment of a pilot program transition fund to help farmers change what they are doing now into a more economically viable and sustainable option and development of agriculture programs in the classrooms to better educate the consumers of tomorrow on healthy food choices and the importance of supporting local communities.
Hants East incumbent and NDP agriculture critic John MacDonnell told the approximately 70 people in attendance that his party will work with farm organizations and other stakeholders to "stop the bleed" by developing a 10-year agricultural strategy for Nova Scotia, as a way to focus on ways to help farmers
"Our job is to create an environment that can assist (government and industry) "to address the barriers to a profitable future," he said.
All three representatives also spoke of the need to ensure food safety and secure farming practices and of the importance of producing as much locally grown product as possible.
When it came time to auction off their presentations, MacDonnell secured the highest bid at $90 while Versteeg received $25.
Taylor, who made a point of saying he was not "electioneering," received a $10 bid.
The money, along with other contributions from the event (totalling $229.10) is to be donated to Feed Nova Scotia.