Ranchers are seeing some relief from the market these days as prices begin to creep back up, mostly due to the unprecedented reduction in the cattle herd that has occurred over the past two years.
The North American herd population is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years.
Unfortunately, most of this cull came from small and medium-sized producers, the backbone of the industry and our communities.
But it wasn’t simply cattle prices that caused this cull in BC. Ranchers have been beset by a host of issues for some time: drought, wildfires, invasive plants, predators, fencing issues, the ALR, new slaughter regulations, the carbon tax and an aging workforce, to name just a few.
Each one of these issues requires a thoughtful and timely response from Government. Unfortunately in most cases, ranchers have become frustrated with the slowness or the lack of a comprehensive response from government to their legitimate and pressing issues.
For example, rather than resolving the predator issue, there have been reductions to the predator control program and the mitigation funding has been cut.
There are also insufficient funds available to conduct a robust response to invasive plants and ranchers feel they are still not being heard regarding their serious concerns about how wildfires are managed and how ranchers are assisted in the aftermath of these catastrophic events.
After the last election the B.C. Government did initiate a “Ranching Task Force” and committed funding to address ongoing fencing issues, but it appears the Task Force report is now collecting dust. Sadly, I don’t expect new money will be assigned to the recommendations in that report in the upcoming budget – we’ve been informed that a leaderless government will be presenting a “status quo” budget on Feb. 15.
Ranchers deserve more from their government; we need an aggressive joint federal-provincial-municipal approach to addressing the pressing issues confronting ranchers and the appropriate financial resources assigned to each program.
We must diversify our economy in the Cariboo and the entire agriculture industry has huge potential to play a strong role in that diversification while addressing climate change and food security concerns. What the industry lacks is real leadership from its governments to capture its huge potential.
Bob Simpson is Cariboo North Independent MLA.