Cattlemen association president beefed at ministers’ visit

Duncan Barnett is disappointed his association was not invited to a meeting when ministers toured the region Feb. 7.

Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association president Duncan Barnett is disappointed his association was not invited to a meeting of ranchers in Williams Lake hosted by Cariboo MLA Donna Barnett on Feb. 7 when ministers Steve Thomson and Pat Bell toured the region.

Duncan said his association believes it was a “select” group of ranchers that Donna gathered for the meeting.

“He (Thomson) didn’t get an accurate message of the concern that our membership has,” Duncan told the Tribune Friday, adding he heard Thomson telling local media that when it comes to predators, compensation isn’t the solution.

Duncan pointed out the association is doing some proactive things to protect herds from predation. On the day the ministers were in town, 20 members were taking a trapping course at a local ranch.

“There were two conservation officers in attendance as well. If the minister had wanted to see what was going on with predators or talk to some ranchers he could have gone to this course, where his own staff were in attendance,” Duncan said. Thomson is well-respected by local ranchers, Duncan added, but said he feels he may have been misled while he was in Williams Lake.

Responding to the association’s complaints about who she had invited to meet with the ministers, Donna explained the ministers met with a group of ranchers from around her riding.

“These ranchers belong to the Cariboo Chilcotin Cattlemen’s Association, the South Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association,” Donna said. “The issue at the table was predators. Believe you me, these people have been dealing with this for three years, as I have in my riding, and we’ve had some successes and we’re working with the minister to move this forward,” Donna said.

There were very capable and long-time ranchers representing cattlemen at the meeting with the ministers, Donna added.

Front and centre was the issue of predator control, she stressed.

“The ranchers I invited have been asking for a meeting with the ministers for a long time and I’m happy I was able to do that for the constituents in my riding,” Donna said, adding she talks often with members of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association and has “great access” to the association’s concerns.

On Feb. 10, the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association held its annual general meeting in Williams Lake where Duncan said his members mentioned they would have also liked to query the ministers on the status of the $2.5 million Agri-Recovery initiative announced back in July 2011.

“Quite a few members have seen no sign of the recovery funds and that was something raised at our AGM. We are wondering what’s happening to the money,” Duncan says.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed 498 applications were received for the Canada-British Columbia Feed Assistance Initiative representing nearly 80,000 animals.

There are 359 applications that have been processed “promptly” once all the required information has been submitted, and if an applicant is unaware of the status of their application, they should contact the Williams Lake office of the Business Risk Management Branch, Ministry of Agriculture.

The ministry has been directly contacting people who need more information on their applications before they can be processed, the spokesperson said.

Additionally, the AGM generated a discussion about the carbon tax.

“The thought there is we’re trying to create jobs. At the chamber luncheon on Feb. 7, Minister Bell talked about the four pillars, agriculture being one of the pillars and how we’re trying to export to China and global markets,” Duncan said.

While the association is on board for exporting and has been doing a lot of marketing work, including looking at China, Duncan asks how B.C. ranchers can compete with neighbouring jurisdictions, such as Alberta and Washington, when they do not have to pay carbon tax on fuel.

“It affects pretty well everything you do — your fertilizers, your winter feeding, transporting animals to market.

We’re the only jurisdiction that has the carbon tax, and it’s an additional cost others don’t have, but one thing that’s frustrating is there haven’t been any programs developed for agriculture like the forest industry, where they can plant trees to offset the carbon tax,” Duncan explained, alleging the government has not made any efforts to develop something for agriculture.

Duncan said it would have been nice to “flesh” some of these issues out with the ministers before they took messages back to Victoria.

Thomson was unavailable for comment at press time.