Drought and water cost focus of BCCA annual meeting

News Roundup from the August 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Consultations with government on water security and predator control issues dominated last year’s activities at the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA) and returning president Lary Fossum of Dawson Creek expects this year will bring much of the same.

“We’ve had good consultation with government on segments of the new Water Sustainability Act. Water pricing is of great concern and some producers saw an increase in water cost last year, but they felt it was tolerable. More regulations will be coming forward this year and we hope to continue the consultations,” Fossum says.

Predator control has been a work in progress through the years and the association will continue to lobby for better control over predators.

“There was some movement last year,” Fossum reports. “The government has been talking more with us and bringing new ideas forward to allow ranchers to do more on their own on Crown ranges and leases.”

Two resolutions on this topic received support from members at this year’s AGM: one, to continue working with government to improve the effectiveness of predator control and livestock compensation, and another to lobby for wolf trapping on Crown range by a licensed trapper throughout the grazing tenure season when there is a verified kill.

Sharing Crown grazing lands with other users requires a lot of co-operation, but always brings its share of issues as well. Between ranching, oil, gas, forestry, trappers, and recreation, Fossum says it’s often difficult to know which ministries have jurisdiction. There is concern that the government hasn’t addressed this well enough to have a handle on the cumulative effect of all of the industries on the same piece of ground.

It can be difficult for ranchers to have their concerns addressed given that grazing tenures are normally a very small part of a logging block. Members were in favour of lobbying for a secondary referral process, whereby logging companies would bring their detailed plans to grazing tenure holders for comment on how logging activities will actually impact grazing, not what might happen based on the logging companies’ initial management plans that are typically quite vague.

“As it is, logging companies are only required to talk once with tenure holders, though some companies are much better than others at keeping communication open,” Fossum adds.

Members also supported a resolution to lobby BC Hydro to assume responsibility currently held by contractors for complete and successful remediation of rights-of-way and property damage.

Railway companies have always been tough to get to the table to talk, even when it comes to ranchers getting access to repair or rebuild fences built under the existing Highways and Railways Fencing Program. Members carried a resolution to push forward with lobby efforts to secure new funds reserved for construction and maintenance of fencing along railway corridors that would be additional and complementary to the existing program.

In June, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure announced $4 million over two years to continue the Highway and Railway Fencing Program administered by the BCCA since 2010. Already 650 kilometres of existing fence along highways have been repaired, but the association has received applications for upgrades to 1,600 kilometres. BCCA’s annual cattle loss survey shows a 50 per cent decline in cattle losses due to vehicle collisions since the start of the program.

Members also carried a resolution to extend brand inspection to the lower mainland and whole of Vancouver Island to make it a requirement across the province.

Fossum is hoping that the unusually short list of 11 resolutions, several of which were brought forward just to keep current issues on the table, is an indicator that members are satisfied with the association’s work on their behalf.

BCCA’s AGM at Merritt, marking the first full year under its new governance structure, was well attended with a sold-out trade show. Education Day featured speakers on various aspects of the social licence.

Once again, B.C. Beef Day on the legislative grounds followed directly on the heels of the AGM with an estimated 400 people from the legislature and general public attending this year’s barbecue, up from fewer than 100 at the first one six years ago.

“They look forward to it and we look forward to it because we have direct access to the ministers and can do a lot of lobbying in one day,” Fossum concludes.

Rounding out the board of directors are incoming vice-president Brian McKersie, Canal Flats; past president David Haywood-Farmer, Savona; and zone directors Mike McConnell, Dawson Creek; Renee Ardill, Fort St. John; Larry Garrett, Vanderhoof; Martin Rossmann, Quesnel; Bob Storey, Smithers; Grant Huffman, Riske Creek; Duncan Barnett, 150 Mile House; John Anderson, Merritt; Leroy Peters, Heffley Creek; Linda Allison, Princeton; and Werner Stump, Malakwa.

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