P.E.I. ranchers rip “cruel” herd seizure

Prince Edward Island Cattle Producers have pointed to a much-publicized seizure of an island rancher’s herd as a “cruel reminder” of the state of the province’s beef industry.

Producers do not receive the cost of production for their cattle, thus “rapidly eroding” the island’s beef herd, the PEICP said in a statement Friday.

“One thing is certain, unless government steps up to help producers weather the storm, we will not have any beef produces left in P.E.I.,” the group said, noting it has been “lobbying both levels of government for financial assistance since last October, but have had no success.”

The group refers to the move last Thursday by Farm Credit Canada to seize the herd of Sterling Mitchell, who PEICP chairman Peter Verleun called “a well respected producer who ran a top-notch operation.”

CBC reported Thursday that Mitchell’s herd of about 500 cattle had been seized from his property that day following two years’ non-payment on $400,000 that his farm owed to the federal ag lending agency.

Mitchell was quoted by CBC as blaming the drop in cattle prices following the BSE crisis, and saying he’d hoped to work out a last-minute deal with the lender.

An FCC spokesperson told CBC it’s unusual for the agency to seize farmers’ assets in this manner, as it usually prefers to make some arrangement so a producer doesn’t lose everything. Sometimes, however, it’s easier for farmers to get their books in order when livestock are gone, FCC’s Remi Lemoine said.

CBC also reported Friday that about 30 producers had blockaded the livestock trucker’s property to prevent him from moving the cattle until they knew where the cattle and calves would be taken.

The broadcaster said the producers blocking the trucks wanted to make sure the animals wouldn’t be taken out of the province. CBC had quoted Mitchell as saying it would be much more difficult for him to get his cattle back if they were trucked off the island and dispersed to different provinces.

“It has taken generations of farmers such as the Mitchells to build up the beef industry on P.E.I. and it is all being destroyed in one decade,” Verleun said in the PEICP statement Friday. “This is another blow to the Island’s beef industry.”

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