Members of the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association are facing a busy year, starting with the adjustment to a new provincial government in June, and offering assistance to producers coping with the devastation of wildfires in July.
The BCCA office in Kamloops was swamped last month helping to put haulers in touch with producers needing transport and keeping tabs on highway closures, evacuation orders and permits to re-enter evacuated areas to remove livestock. The association website is asking producers to submit information on losses caused by the fire to substantiate any claims the BCCA eventually makes on behalf of the industry for fire recovery programs.
On other fronts, president Brian McKersie says arrangements have been finalized to increase the national and provincial beef checkoff approved by producers at the 2016 AGM. Starting September 1, the national checkoff will increase from $1 to $2.50 per marketed head and the provincial checkoff goes from $2 to $2.50 per marketed head.
Another major project for the BCCA is a proposal for a federally licensed beef processing plant. A 2015 study indicated a plant would be viable in B.C. and a recently completed business plan pointed to the Prince George area as the most promising location because of the availability of feed grains and forage in the area. Both would be needed to support the feedlots needed to supply a successful gate-to-plate venture.
McKersie termed the three-year pilot Livestock Protection Program that came into effect January 1, 2016, an overwhelming success and credits the people in place who help producers verify, mitigate and initiate claims for wolf and coyote predation on cattle and sheep.
With the change in government, the association is hoping previously approved funding for an invasive weed control pilot project and the long-standing Highways and Railways Fencing Program remain on the books.
Having input into regulations being developed for the province’s 2016 Water Sustainability Act remains a priority for 2017. As the regulation stands, producers must complete an online application to license their wells and pay for groundwater for irrigation and livestock watering. At the last annual meeting, members urged the BCCA to oppose regulations that require beef producers to pay license fees for water consumed by beef cattle other than at confined livestock sites.
There is a concern that the information the province is gathering goes beyond what is needed to manage water resources. Perceived flaws in the licensing process are also said to create confusion for government employees and ranchers, leading to significant delays in processing applications.
BCCA has developed a guide to walk producers through the application and has been offering workshops to assist those who don’t have access to computers and the internet.
McKersie hopes their earlier work with the outgoing government to untangle a requirement to license water use on grazing leases still stands. Historically, it has always been understood that water comes with the grass on a grazing lease.
A case before the courts brought by a recreational group wanting “freedom to roam” rights on deeded ranch land, resulted in a resolution asking the BCCA for a list of practical actions producers could take to improve their legal position to control public access to their private lands. The board was also directed to open a dialogue with all provincial parties to explain the ecological and practical implications of granting public access to deeded land.
Following a successful initial town hall meeting in Cranbrook, McKersie says the board hopes to host another town hall gathering this year for members in a northern zone.