British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association
British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA) continues to work on a number of issues such as forage supply, wildfires, water, and agriculture waste regulation to name a few of the ongoing topics. A couple of new items have arisen over the past year.
The most recent case of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has been traced back to a ranch in B.C. In November, a mature cow tested positive for bTB following a routine inspection at a federal packing plant in Alberta, the carcass was condemned, and further testing was initiated. This is the first case in B.C. since 2011. Tracing activities are underway on the index herd to identify animal movements including animals that may have had direct contact with the index herd, and those that have entered or left the farm. As many in the industry know too well, the investigation is slow but necessary nonetheless to ensure the health of all cattle in B.C. and Canada. We are doing everything within our abilities to support the producers affected.
Agricultural Land Commission
The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has been a key aspect of the agricultural landscape in B.C. since the 1970s. Under Honourable Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Agriculture, the Province embarked on an initiative to revitalize the ALC and the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This fall, the Province passed Bill 52, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, primarily focussed on restricting mega-mansions and land speculation, curbing the dumping of construction waste, and returning to one zone for all B.C. ALR land. BCCA doesn’t believe that these changes will have large impacts to B.C.’s ranching community; however, BCCA recently met with the Agricultural Land Commissioners to bring attention to Crown ALR lands and their importance for the long-term viability of the livestock sector. The meeting was positive, and the Commission was receptive to the ideas BCCA put forward. The next phase of changes will focus on the ALC’s governance and decision-making and are expected in early 2019.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
The Province made clear their intention to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and released their 10 draft principles for doing so in May 2018. However, it remains unclear how this will be carried out, and what it will mean for ranchers as private landowners and Crown land tenure holders. BCCA wants to see the provincial government provide clear direction on using UNDRIP to ensure there is consistency of implementation across the province. BCCA is also seeking clarity on how government plans to use UNDRIP and what implications it will have for ranchers.
Court case: Douglas Lake v. Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club
BCCA has also been following the court case of Douglas Lake v. Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club for several years. In December, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in favour of the Fish and Game Club. Part of BCCA’s concerns are a result of the evidence used in the case. As private landowners, many of whom have landlocked lakes, the replacement of the surveyed Crown Grant map is a serious concern to ranchers. In our view Hon. Justice Groves’ decision to replace the map gravely impacts deeded landowners’ property rights and has the potential to be used as precedents in future court decisions. BCCA is exploring the effects the case may have on private landowners. BCCA has until January 7, 2019 to file for intervenor status in the appeal case.
BC Beef Packing Plant
After receiving funding from the Province to continue exploring the opportunity to build a federally inspected beef packing plant in B.C., an advisory committee of industry stakeholders was formed to look at the pros and cons of the project. Over the last few months, the advisory committee has held producer engagement sessions across the province to gather feedback on moving the 500 head per week plant forward. Discussion at the sessions has included seasonality and cattle supply, labour force and location of the plant. Since producers have expressed interest in investing in the plant, but do not have the ability to be the final producer, options for creating partnerships are being explored. Overall, the meetings were positive and there is a great deal of interest from producers in getting involved in this opportunity. Steering committee members heard what producers had to say and will be including that feedback in their ongoing consideration as the plant discussion continues. Regular updates can be found on the B.C. Packing Plant website: www.bcbeefpackingplant.ca
Parts of B.C. were hit with severe wildfires putting many producers on evacuation alerts and orders again this summer. While good progress was made the previous summer when access permits allowed ranchers back into evacuation areas to complete essential tasks like haying, this summer ranchers faced renewed frustrations when permits were not available. Another area of frustration was how evacuation alerts and orders were issued and how the rules around those trigger different responses. BCCA has requested government to look into solutions. As these wildfire events become a more regular occurrence producers are seeking more information like, do I have to leave my ranch under an evacuation order, what happens if I choose not to leave and what best practices can I implement on my ranch to reduce wildfire risk? BCCA is developing additional information and resource materials (ie. Q&A document) to be available to all ranchers next spring in advance of the wildfire season. Once again, AgriRecovery is available for ranchers impacted by fires. The 2018 Canada-British Columbia Wildfires Recovery Initiative will provide $5 million to assist ranchers and farmers to recover from the 2018 wildfires. The hard work put into the 2017 AgriRecovery package carried over resulting in similar program coverage for 2018 as in 2017. After the fires are out, issues such as rehabilitating fireguards, reseeding burned areas and taking a fulsome look at forest management need to be addressed.
There are many moving parts to the B.C. Government’s regulations supporting the Water Sustainability Act which came into force in 2016. First, groundwater licensing (a new requirement for B.C.) has been underway since 2016 and the deadline for existing groundwater users to apply is fast approaching (March 1, 2019). The application process has not been without challenges but BCCA has continued to carry the message to our members that licensing is mandatory and should help protect our use of water.
Second, the Livestock Water Regulation proposal is under review by the ministry’s legal advisors. BCCA has asked for an exemption on licences for livestock watering, including dugouts, and to continue to allow direct access by livestock to a water source. Until recently, we were confident that the regulation would include both of these recommendations. Additionally, it is unlikely that the Livestock Water Regulation will pass before the March 1, 2019 deadline for groundwater applications leaving producers in a difficult, and confusing, position of meeting the upcoming deadline while lacking clarity on livestock water use.
BCCA continues to meet with the Province to find solutions and seek clarity for producers moving forward.
Beef Code of Practice
Similar to the dairy cattle code of practice, B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture plans to enshrine the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle, along with 11 other codes of practice developed through the National Farm Animal Care Council, in regulation. It is our understanding that enshrining means to preserve a right in a form that ensures it will be protected and respected. By enshrining the code, the practices outlined in the code would serve as reasonable and generally accepted practices of animal management. Producers following the codes would be able to use them as a defence from prosecution of animal distress. Over the past six months, BCCA has met with ministry staff to provide input into the process and the Ministry continues to seek feedback from industry. The timeline for enshrining the regulation is this winter/spring.
This report highlights some of the on-going and new challenges that have been the focus of BCCA’s work over the past year. In closing, BCCA appreciates the hard work of all the CCA Directors and staff. We would like to thank our B.C. CCA Directors Grant Huffman and Brian McKersie for their commitment to the industry.
For more information, please visit the BCCA website at www.cattlemen.bc.ca
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