APAS Reports Farmers Receive Less Consumers Pay More

A key finding of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan’s 2024 Farmers and Food Prices report highlights a concerning trend; farmers are receiving less, and consumers are paying more. In a June 12, 2024, media release “Farmers Getting Less, Consumers Paying More,” APAS President Ian Boxall said, “What we saw this year is commodity prices were down across the board. Yet grocery prices went up again, so it [the increase] isn’t attributed to the farmer. I think the report shows just how important it would be to have transparency in that food supply chain.”

Using data from Statistics Canada, the United States Department of Agriculture and market analyst Kevin Grier, APAS highlighted that the share of the retail cost farmers received last year for products like bread and beer fell by 20 and 28 percent, respectively. The APAS report indicates that prices for raw commodities such as canola, wheat, lentils, barley and hogs dropped by five to 16 percent from 2022 to 2023, while food products made from these commodities saw price increases, the release stated.

Boxall said the public outcry about food prices is a wake-up call to the need for a more competitive grocery market and a system that supports producers and consumers. Echoing these sentiments, the recent report from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food titled “A Call to Action: How Government and Industry Can Fight Back Against Food Price Volatility” emphasizes similar concerns. The committee’s recommendations highlight how reduced competition in food retail negatively impacts consumers and offer strategic guidance to ensure the agricultural marketplace remains fair and competitive, thereby protecting our economy, consumers, and producers.

Since APAS showed consumers what the farmer’s share of the food dollar is with the report, they hope consumers ask questions about what processor and retail shares are. Boxall stated that despite the soaring grocery prices, the amount paid to farmers has remained stagnant or declined. “I think consumers need to educate themselves … because we only produce the raw ingredients, there is more work that goes into it before [the food] ends up on the store shelf,” Boxall said. “I think, this report is a base for consumers to educate themselves [and] also ask questions.”

One farmer, who wished not to be named, shared that although the price for weanling calves has been good for the last few years, it has also stayed fairly constant, unlike the prices consumers pay in the store. “If I didn’t have beef to harvest from my [own] herd, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. It used to be, that people might not be able to afford steak and the pricier cuts of beef, but they could afford ground. Now, just walk through the meat aisle in the store and listen to the conversations young families are having when they are [meat] buying for their families.”

Several big feedlot owners also own vast stretches of farmland, for example, VRP Farms owns 34,000 acres of dryland farm west of Outlook in the ‘west side expansion’ area of the South Saskatchewan River Irrigation District and 21,000 acres in Alberta. The product produced on the Alberta farmland is then used at the feedlot. In 2015, the Van Raay and Paskal families joined their feedlot and farming businesses to create VRP Farms. VRP operates eight feedlots in southern Alberta capable of feeding up to 150,000 head of cattle at once. Feedlots, the farmer added, say their costs have increased, but then this report comes out and it shows that the price paid to farmers for the raw commodities has decreased, “It’s not us getting rich.”

It is a sentiment shared by Boxall. “It’s an unsustainable situation. Our farmers are struggling to
cover the costs of production, yet the retail price[s] keep increasing. This discrepancy needs urgent attention.”

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) represents ratepayers in 135 rural municipalities and has been the voice of Saskatchewan’s farmers and ranchers since 2000. It is a non-profit, non-partisan, producer-run organization which advocates for producers to create success for farm and ranch families. As a grassroots organization, APAS works on behalf of its members to address the most important issues facing the province's agriculture sector, including rail transportation, carbon taxation, business risk management, seed royalties, and water policy, to name a few. It represents Saskatchewan as a member of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and advocates on behalf of Saskatchewan agricultural producers to all levels of government.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder