Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) head into this year with hopes of expanding the provincial cow herd, preparations being made to deal with full traceability, and plans to lobby for fairness to producers as governments move forward with plans for a carbon tax.
The association is also preparing for the introduction of the $2.50 per head national checkoff sometime this summer, an increase from the current $1 per head levy that was approved by producers at the last annual meeting of the MBP.
“Our main job this year as far as increasing the number of beef producers on the landscape will be letting people know that beef production in Manitoba is a really good thing and our organization is here for them and working to make it profitable,” says MBP president-elect Ben Fox.
The new Conservative government’s minister of agriculture, Ralph Eicher, announced last summer that he would like to see the cow herd increase from approximately 485,000 head today to its pre-BSE level around 750,000.
The MBP board of directors followed through on its commitment to gather ideas from its members at fall district meetings on how this might be accomplished. Four themes came out of those meetings: find ways to make beef production more economically predictable; gain access to more Crown acres; attract new producers and secure labour to help existing producers grow their herds.
Several resolutions addressed specific hurdles that would need to be overcome to support an increase in the beef herd.
Regarding access to Crown lands, members favour giving the minister of agriculture oversight and control over agricultural Crown lands. There was also some agreement on the need for a more flexible process to transfer Crown lands between producers to ensure that it is being used effectively.
The need for improved maintenance of existing drains on Crown and private lands was raised as a barrier to the use of these acres. Beaver population control would have to be another part of the package along with properly managed watersheds to reduce or prevent recurrent flooding of valuable forage land.
There was unanimous agreement that the current model for funding education is outdated and unfair to farmers, and no doubt acts as a deterrent to potential new entrants looking to invest in the beef business. Property ownership has no bearing on the ability to pay tax, and the members urged their association to continue to lobby government to remove the property tax from farmland and buildings involved in farm production.
Members also approved of the role the MBP has to play in educating producers about the implementation plan agreed to by the industry and government for full traceability, and explaining the necessity of premises identification and movement reporting documents.
If this industry-negotiated plan fails, Fox fears the government will enact far less farmer-friendly regulations requiring the reading of tags each time animals move out of a premise.
Seven districts brought resolutions forward dealing with climate change and carbon sequestration.
In light of the requirement for a carbon tax imposed by the federal government, the producers asked the MBP to lobby the province to implement an Alternate Land-Use Services program to provide payments to agricultural producers for measurable increases in carbon sequestration and any environmentally sound practices that retain additional water on the land they manage.
Other resolutions called for an exemption from carbon taxation on all agricultural-related inputs and for the MBP to urge government to take no steps toward reducing CO2 emissions that are out of step with those in the U.S. The aim of the motion was to avoid any repercussions by the U.S. that might damage the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture and the rural economy.
Fox says he was honoured by the directors confidence in him to lead the organization for the coming year. He feels he is ready to face the challenges ahead. He comes into his new role having served four years as district director during which time he served on the executive as first and second vice-president and secretary, as well as chair of the animal health committee, vice-chair of the Crown land committee and as a member of the governance committee. He is also the alternate representative to the National Cattle Feeders’ Association and co-chairs the Manitoba TB task force.
Fox brings depth of knowledge to the table as a rancher and cattle buyer for JBS. He was raised on a purebred Hereford operation near Lloydminster, Sask., and formally educated at Oklahoma State University. In 2006, he and his wife, Linda, moved to the Dauphin area where they run their diverse operation under the name of Justamere Ranch. He’s proud to be able to say that their four children are now the fifth generation of the Fox family to be involved in primary production.