Farm prices holding steady, other industries suffering

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Tom Summer Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
The Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) supports the creation of original civic journalism. Tom Summer works under the Alaska Highway News in Fort St. John. The content that is produced will be made available to media organizations through a Creative Commons license so that Canadians can be better informed.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Farm prices continue to hold their ground in the new viral reality. 

Farmers’ biggest concerns are still the weather, confirmed industry this week. 

“It’s not necessarily related to COVID-19, but what we’re seeing is a leveling off of farm prices, but that was already in the works,” said CLHbid President Roy Carter.

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Farm credit numbers continued to see a 5.2 increase across Western Canada for 2019.  Carter cautions the number is an average, with prices varying from region to region. Farm incomes peaked in 2016, with a lag that industry has been tracking, said Carter. 

“The value of farmland in relation to farm income is as large as it’s ever been,” said Carter, noting there are exceptions, including land sales south of Calgary which exceeded both pre and post COVID-19 prices. 

Manager Peter Raffan from Dawson Creek’s VJV Auction Markets says COVID-19 has been a challenge.  

“We’re limited by buyers. It takes the confidence away from producers and packing plants. Some are closing down or going to one shift,” said Raffan, noting cattle prices have been impacted, with the situation changing on a daily basis. 

Cattle prices sit at over $200 a head, for heifers and steers with some variation depending on weight as of April 14.  

However, agriculture continues to be one of the best economic sectors in both BC and Alberta. Other sectors have suffered some setbacks due to the virus. 

“Obviously travel and tourism is hurting, it’s a grim perspective right now. But there’s always next year,” said DEW-Line Enterprises owner Don Whiteford, who was the former vice president of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association. 

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Whiteford also noted Travel Alberta has pulled out of their cooperative marketing program, which advocates for local rodeos, fairs, and music events. 

“They’ve decided any money they’re spending this year is going to be directed to recovery,” said Whiteford, noting that it’s a big question whether anyone can even put on events this summer. 

Oil and gas has also taken a hit, with Calgary-based energy companies continuing to reduce production, cut spending and trim costs as volatile oil prices remain stubbornly below profitable levels.

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