A notice went out to most of the membership of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association, however it was a relatively small group of producers who ventured into town on Tuesday, Aug. 13 to attend an informal get-together with the most recent appointee to the office of the Minister of Agriculture.
The Honourable Pat Pimm, a lifelong resident of the Peace River area (Fort St. John) was re-elected as the MLA-Peace River North then appointed as Minister of Agriculture on June 13, 2013.
He comes to the position as a ’newbie,’ a first-time minister who will be learning the inner workings of a ministerial position along with the issues and concerns confronting those involved in the agricultural sector of his portfolio.
The event in Williams Lake was a whistle stop on a summer tour arranged by Pimm as informal way to meet with people, listen to their concerns and familiarize himself with the various sectors of agriculture in B.C.
There is a lot to absorb. Pimm notes there are in excess of 250 agricultural commodities produced in BC.
Both Cariboo-area MLA’s were attendance at the Cattleman’s Association Meeting as well (Donna Barnett and Coralee Oakes).
With the knowledge that Pimm’s time was limited, the executive of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association set an agenda, with a different cattleman selected to introduce and speak to each area of concern.
CCA President Cuyler Huffman gave a brief welcome, then it was on to the business of the day as the concerns and issues itemized on the agenda were voiced by an individual on behalf of the whole group with a short question and answer follow-up.
First up was Roger Patenaude of 150 Mile House, who asked Pimm what his government planned to do about the carbon tax which incurs onerous costs to most agricultural operations as the majority of them consume relatively high amounts of fuel (diesel and gas, particularly) to facilitate production.
His response turned out to be the highlight of the evening, as Pimm stated that effective January 1, 2014, a carbon tax exemption will be provided to farmers for the same coloured motor fuels (gasoline and diesel) and uses that they are currently able to purchase exempt from motor fuel tax.
The surprise and relief was palpable in the room as cattle producers have been lobbying (unsuccessfully) for some time to gain that exempt-status.
Other items or issues of concern were put forward by the following speakers:
David Zirnhelt (Beaver Valley) spoke about the transplantation of ‘problem Elk’ from elsewhere in B.C. to the Cariboo region and reiterated that ranchers need to be consulted in such matters, as they will likely be the front-line group to be impacted by such moves (on rangelands/standing and stored feed crops). The cattlemen are concerned that they appear to have no seat in the discussion/planning and process.
Cuyler Huffman spoke about the predator control issue, always the hot-button topic at any such gathering. Predation of cattle is still a major-loss cost-factor and the problem is not lessening or going away.
The producers are not advocating the wholesale removal of wolves in the area, but pleading for some help with those predating specifically on cattle as their losses in herd numbers and dollars are quite astronomical in some cases.
Other topics raised included Work Safe BC recent reviews/changes (many mandatory) for ranch-operations. Some of the required changes are very costly to implement, particularly in remote areas; for instance, communication and requiring the installation of expensive radio systems when cell-service is not an alternative.
There was some discussion of local abattoirs, relating to lack of places to get animals booked into kill-spaces.
For the first time in recent memory there appears to be a problem with booking all of the 4-H animals into a facility to be killed, cut and wrapped.
The Highway Fencing Program was highlighted as it is about to end due to the end of funding, although the applications are still rolling in as much of the highway-fence is twenty years old or better and in severe need of major repair or replacement.
A Highway 20 rancher noted that he, his family and crew must move cattle across the busy roadway often and what was once a pokey little thoroughfare is now a major highway with motorists (and logging trucks) travelling at high speeds.
His requests for underpasses have met with no positive response thus far, he said. Dirt-plugged cattle guards received mention as well.
The two hours passed by far too quickly, the topics-discussed-list goes on: the cost of dam inspection on private lands, the length of grazing tenures, a cattle insurance program, the Ranching Task Force and much more.
Pimm came across as personable and approachable, advising that he is not about to make any promises to cut through or eliminate red tape, but instead is willing to assist with a specific problem or issue once it is brought to his attention.