Water, predators and treaties top concerns in B.C.

Associations: News Roundup from the August 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association board of directors. Back row (l. to r.) John Anderson (Merritt), Erin Durrell (Quesnel), Bob Storey (Smithers), Larry Rast (Creston), Grant Huffman (Williams Lake), Doug Fossen (Rock Creek), Leroy Peters (Heffley Creek). Front row (l. to r.): Mike McConnell (Dawson Creek), Duncan Barnett (150 Mile House), Brian McKersie (BCCA president, Canal Flats), Larry Garrett (BCCA vice-president, Vanderhoof), Linda Allison (Princeton), Renee Ardill (Fort St. John).

The British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association came out in support of the proposed increase in the national checkoff from $1 to $2.50 per marketed head, as well as an increase in the provincial checkoff from $2 to $2.50 per head during the annual general meeting at Penticton in May, just as our JUne 2016 issue was going to print.

“Directors were able to get the information out to local and regional associations ahead of time, so there were a lot of good questions and discussion. It shows that members think we are doing a good job,” says president Brian McKersie of Canal Flats, who took over from Lary Fossum of Dawson Creek.

Members were an agreeable group this year, carrying all but one of the resolutions; however, the province’s new Water Sustainability Act cast a dark shadow over the education day part of the convention. BCCA has been lobbying on this issue since the 100-year-old Water Act came up for modernization in 2009 with little to show for it. Under the new act beef producers must complete a detailed online application to obtain a groundwater license for irrigation and livestock watering.

The online bit is an issue for those who don’t have a high-speed connection or any Internet service, says McKersie who is one of those who must rely on his cellular service to access the Internet.

This was a hot issue when producers met the minister during Beef in B.C. Day at the legislature before their convention, and will likely remain so during McKersie’s term as president.

Predation continues to be a big issue in B.C. and McKersie was pleased to report on the livestock protection program put in place on January 1. It provides wildlife specialists for verification and mitigation services to cattle and sheep producers for injury, harassment or death loss caused by wolves and coyotes. The province’s conservation office will continue to handle problems caused by all other predators.

As of June, most of the province’s First Nation bands had signed off on an agreement to establish the program because rising predation pressure continues to reduce big game numbers.

A resolution to lobby government to implement the Okanagan-Shuswap District Forage Supply Strategy province-wide received full support and could go a long way to helping big game populations rebound without raiding cattle feed supplies. The strategy involves seeding grass on Crown land for big game. For example, areas sown to orchardgrass in 1985 remain some of the most populated wintering sites for elk.

On the topic of First Nations relations, members voted in support of creating a position for a person to represent the interests of cattlemen and other stakeholders in future treaty negotiations following the process laid out in the Nenqay Deni Accord. This person would be responsible for gathering information independent of government on future treaty negotiations where the rights and interests of producers and other stakeholders are involved.

Members also directed the board to work with industry and the province to develop options for a vendor-security (patrons) fund for discussion at the association’s 2017 annual meeting. They also want the board to lobby for the appointment of two RCMP livestock investigators with knowledge of the beef industry. The lone RCMP livestock investigator in B.C. retired over a year ago.

A resolution to lobby for the right for producers to stay back to defend their own property in the event of wildfires and floods was also carried. Producers have machinery and irrigation equipment and would like to at least have the choice to stay home by signing waivers when an evacuation order is issued.

On top of the busy lobbying year in store, McKersie is hopeful that the association will be able to arrange a series of tech transfer events for producers, along the lines of those introduced last year.

“I am honoured to be asked to take on the role as president because it’s nice to be able to contribute back to the industry. I enjoy the meetings and have learned a lot from anything I’ve attended,” says McKersie, who has been a BCCA director on and off for the past 15 years and served as vice-president last year.

The board regularly meets face-to-face three times a year, and he’d like to try for at least one more meeting in addition to conference calls at least once a month and the AGM.

He is grateful for his family and employees who help him run 350 cows in addition to a gravel firm. Son Cody takes care of the gravel business for the most part. His daughter Jesse is a registered nurse, but still finds time to look after the books and anything computer-related. She also helps out during calving beginning in March, branding and riding pastures. His parents, who moved the family from southern Alberta in 1963, are still on the ranch and help as they can, while his fiancée Campion, and family Behn and Julia, have been quick to learn the business. Rounding out the crew is a hired man to look after moving the irrigation wheels twice daily while McKersie takes care of the haying operations at home and about three hours away on land west of Calgary.

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