B.C. cattle producers see checkoff increase

More money is needed to support research and marketing initiatives and remain competitive, say industry officials

PENTICTON, B.C. — The British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association has agreed to increase its checkoff to $5 per head to support national and provincial initiatives.

The provincial checkoff will increase to $2.50 per head from $2, while the additional money is for the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency.

“British Columbia was the first province to actually establish a checkoff in the 1940s. In 1953 the checkoff was 30 cents a head and calf prices were 23.5 cents (a pound),” BCCA board member Linda Allison, said during the association’s annual meeting held in Penticton May 26-28.

The beef industry has big goals, and more money is needed at the national and provincial levels, said David Haywood-Farmer, vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and a B.C. rancher.

“The dollar we collected 20 years is just not enough funds for the people that are doing that work for us. We need to step up to the plate and we need to make sure the researchers have got enough dollars so they can leverage those dollars,” he said.

“Provincially, we need that extra 50 cents to keep our office at home moving forward.”

The national checkoff was implemented in 1999 with a mandatory levy of $1 to support beef research, marketing and promotion.

Inflation has reduced the buying power of that dollar to 73 cents, said Jack Hextall, chair of the national agency, which administers the checkoff and directs funds to the Beef Cattle Research Council and the marketing arm, Canada Beef.

About $7.6 million in national checkoff funds were collected in 2014-15, but there have been shortfalls to support research and marketing initiatives in recent years. Fewer cattle are being sold, so less money is available.

The national checkoff allows Canada to legally collect a $1 per head levy equivalent on imported beef, which brings in about $1 million per year to support domestic marketing programs.

The $8 million legacy fund from the government matched dollars to support various projects, but that program has ended.

“It is more obvious that government wants to see industry at the table and investing in itself before they want to be there as an investment partner. They feel industry needs to take the lead,” Hextall said.

British Columbia, Alberta, Sask-atchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island have supported an increase to the national checkoff.

The funding shortfall has had a major impact on research support, said Andrea Brocklebank, head of the beef cattle research council.

“In many cases right now, we are not going to be able to fund the same level of research we are al-ready funding if we don’t see that increase due to higher costs or reduced marketings,” she said.

The Cattle Industry Development Council manages the checkoff in B.C. It represents the BCCA, B.C. Association of Cattle Feeders, the B.C. Breeder and Feeder Association and the B.C. Dairy Association.

The council is meeting in June to further discuss the change.

The vote was nearly unanimous, but it was agreed that grassroots producers need more information about the need for more money.

John Anderson of the Nicola Stock Breeders Association and chair of the BCCA’s research committee said Canada needs more money to remain competitive on the world stage.

“We are a trading nation of cattle people,” he said.

“We need to export, and it is very important that the work gets done in two or three different areas. Certainly in the research area, the innovations are going to take us forward in the next 10 or 15 years.”

The Beef Cattle Research Council receives 18 cents from every dollar collected, but Anderson said that increase to 50 cents under the proposed change.

“We need to be aggressive,” he said.

“We have got partners that we are going to be trading against, like Australia, that is already spending a considerable amount of money in marketing their product.”

The push for more funding came when the national beef strategy was released last year. It has set up four priorities for advancing the industry in the next five years:

  • enhance beef demand and increasing carcass cutout values by 15 percent
  • reduce production costs
  • increase production efficiency by 15 percent with a focus on genetic selection, research and technology development.
  • find connections among consumers, government and industry partners.

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