Beef prices play major role in valley agriculture

While ranchers may have had a booming season last year, this year things seem back to normal

The provincial Ministry of Agriculture recently touted last year’s record-setting agrifood business profits, but local Windermere District Farmer’s Institute projects co-ordinator Hedi Trescher cautions that, from a local perspective,while ranchers may have had a booming season last year, this year things seem back to normal.

The ministry recently issued a press release, saying that sales of B.C. agrifood products had topped $13 billion for the first time in 2015, growing by more than $700 million for the second consecutive year, and contributing to a$2.5 billion (24 per cent) rise in revenues since 2010. Of that total, the ministry said that the primary agriculture sector, which includes farmers, ranchers and producers, was up 4.5 per cent to $3.1 billion.

“The B.C. government has a plan to grow the sector to $15 billion by 2020 and it is clearly working. Through our partnerships with B.C.’s food producers, we’ve seen new markets develop and new successes for our farmers and food producers, with annual sector revenues growing by $2.5 billion in five short years as a result,” said provincialAgriculture Minister Norm Letnick in the release.

Trescher, however, said that, locally, there has probably been a rise in agricultural business as compared with five years ago, but that the record high last year might at least in the Upper Columbia Valley have more to do with sky-high beef prices in 2015.

“Last year, cattle prices were a lot higher than this year,” she said. “And in our area, cattle are a large part of the agricultural scene. Last year, they were at a record high, but now they’ve dropped right back down to where they were two years ago.”

Trescher added it’s probably a different situation in an area such as the Okanagan, where the increase might bebased not on rising prices, but instead on an actual expansion of wine production.

“Invermere does have quite a boom in market gardening, but the main factor behind any increase we saw last yearwas the beef prices,” she said. “And, if you are talking about record business, with beef prices, it all depends onwhat year you are talking about. Definitely last year there was a huge price increase for marketed livestock, butthis year it’s back to normal levels. It was an amazing thing last year, but in farming things such as livestockprices don’t always stay put.”

Calf prices last year were around three dollars per pound pound ($6.60 per kilogram). Right now, they are $1.80per pound ($3.90 per kilogram).