Two young women from Ontario Beef Farmers spoke at Thompson Rivers University yesterday to start off a day of seminar and a hurried field trip to Churn Creek which focused on grazing management research and climate change.
They were promoting a Cow Herd Expansion Program for the area North of Sudbury, Ontario. For us that is hardly “north” but with so much farming below the 49th parallel in Ontario, I guess that is north to them.
The equivalent climate and soils in BC would be on the Highway 16 East and West of Prince George, so I guess that is “north”.
The Ontario Beef Farmers have put together quite an ambitious program to attract new entrants to meet the Ontario demand for a growth of about 100,000 head a year.
They figure to fill the production needs for 100,000 head of beef cows, that it will take only five per cent of the 16 million underutilized acres identified in the Great Clay Belt in the Nipigon Timmins area.
Check this out: www.beefnorth.com.
This should be an inspiration to a (new) government in B.C. to show support for the rural B.C. regional economies!
The program involves: land access, research development, education and training, and communications.
It is part of the communications activities which brought them to Williams Lake.
They found out on their own about the TRU Sustainable Ranching program and wanted to learn from us here and to share what they have developed (with public monies).
These farms will mostly be greenfield operations, that is new, where none existed before.
Some will be expansions of small farms, but none will be already developed ranches such as we have here.
What is impressive is that they have plans to dispose of crown lands ( BC has to get the aboriginal title issues dealt with) for farming.
They have developed economic tools and financial models, so interested parties can run the numbers. There are training courses for First nation peoples as well. And there is online modular training on how to start farming.
Further, there are applied research and producer resources on dairy beef, leader-follower grazing, bale grazing and wind breaks, to mention a few.
They say to start up a 200 cow operation in this Great Clay Belt, one needs two million dollars and change. But start up grants of $200,000 are available. Then business expansion loans of $1,000,000 can be had with a conditional grant of 30 per cent, and a 70 per cent loan.
Then there is a Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program for land development covering 50 per cent of the cost up to $500/acre. On 2,000 acres, which they think is necessary for a 200 cow operation, another million of 50 cent dollars.
Then there is the Canada-wide Young Farmers Loan from Farm Credit Corporation @ prime plus one-half per cent up to $ 500,000. Good thing there are financial planning tools to help calculate the debt servicing ability of the operation.
But look at the up front equity available in grants (non-repayable) .
Not too shabby, but there are risks.
Advice then for young farmer/ranchers: there are opportunities elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see this kind of support here in B.C.
David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake in January of 2016.