Manitoulin Cattlemen’s and Soil and Crop Association holds annual meeting

SPRING BAY–The combined Manitoulin Cattlemen’s (MCA) and Soil and Crop Improvement Associations (SCIA) held their annual general meeting (AGM) January 9 at the Spring Bay community hall.

Whenever this reporter attends these meetings as a stringer for the Island’s newspapers, She is reminded that my stepmother often said, “Cattlemen are the salt of the earth.” This was no doubt in part due to the fact that her parents had a cattle ranch near Mancos, Colorado, at the land dubbed the ‘Four Corners.’ This is where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet, an area written about extensively by western author Louis L’Amour.

The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) Northern director Jordan Miller was the first speaker at the meeting, reporting activity and policy updates. He noted that cow herds have stabilized after a 33 percent decline and that steer prices were strong for the first three quarters of 2018, up 2.5 percent over the previous year. He went on to say that there is a huge backlog on processing and that cow exports to the United States were up by 4,600 head over 2017, but lower than 2016. 

Mr. Miller emphasized the need for members to meet with government representatives, saying he has already met with Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha. Ernie Hardeman is the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in the newly elected Conservative government. 

There were several issues raised by Mr. Miller concerning the government including predator compensation, drought assistance, streaming feeder finance requirements and the administrative burden of nutrient management requirements. The new provincial government has announced that there will be a reduction in red tape and unnecessary regulatory burdens for farmers. Changes to the wildlife damage compensation program will see the implementation of an independent body for appeals with a person from the beef industry involved and that there will now be different prices for steers and heifers.

Mr. Miller also spoke of the new, but not yet ratified, trade agreement with the United States, Mexico and Canada, saying that Trump’s trade wars have caused a number of threats for livestock farmers. “Ontario beef farmers have lost,” he said, “on average $235 per animal.” 

He did note, however, that Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that eliminates or reduces tariffs and benefits to Ontario beef farmers with, for example, the export of beef to Japan.

Mr. Miller also spoke of the upcoming changes to Canada’s Food Guide, soon to be released. He noted that the preamble for the new guidelines recommends that Canadians consume less beef and dairy. It is ironic, though, that The Lancet, one of the most impressive peer-reviewed medical journals, showed that recent research indicates that full-fat dairy may actually be healthier than previously thought. Research by Canadians showed that people who eat full-fat dairy are not more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes than those who consume low-fat dairy. “We are hoping that we can have the conversation changes,” Mr. Miller said. “We need to make sure we are not slandered in the process.”

In speaking of emergency response regarding cattle, Mr. Miller said that it is a ‘public relations nightmare.’ When accidents occur involving cattle, he remarked that police did not have the training needed and shot cattle in view of the public. He also said that training with the local fire department is crucial and that the OPP has to understand its jurisdiction.

There are changes in the works for Ontario beef with the launch of the regional marketing initiative that will include recipes and videos, research projects and the taking of samples to show whether that Ontario beef is, in fact, the product in stores. A joint marketing committee will provide support for Ontario beef brands both here and internationally and will report on a yearly basis. The focus will be on decreasing volatility in the marketplace and creating price stability. 

Agriculture Development Advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Barry Potter, also spoke at this meeting. He spoke of dealing with food shortages and noted that people all over are short of hay. His suggestions for reducing feed waste included storing hay inside as well as wrapping hay. Mr. Potter also talked of the Northern Ontario and Quebec beef cow-calf benchmarking project that entailed an in-depth analysis of 25 farms to collect data for the development of key performance indicators for beef operations. This included ideas on feed reductions and winter feeding guidelines. 

Mr. Potter spelled out the need to produce enough hay on Manitoulin to meet needs and he also stated, “make sure you look after the minerals for cattle and they will look after you.”

David Trivers was introduced to the members as the replacement for Mary Scott, who represented the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) and headed workshops for many years.

Mr. Trivers spoke of the $5 billion, five-year Agricultural Partnership of the federal, provincial and territorial governments that includes a cost-sharing funding program for farmers. This is administered by OSCIA in this province and information regarding details of the program, how to apply, program guides and application forms can be found at the OSCIA website. Sectors that are covered include economic development, environmental stewardship, protection and assurance and plant health. For the most up-to-date project information go to www.ontarioprogramguides.net

Mr. Trivers informed members that there is increased merit for Northern Ontario farmers for animal handling and animal welfare due to the low veterinary services here.

Birgit Martin, director of the Northeastern OSCIA presented her report to the members. She explained that she is retired from Northland Agromart, where she worked for 19 years, and will now spend more time on the farm. She also remarked that the numbers at the Manitoulin abbatoir have increased slightly and that efforts were made to find a match through LAMBAC for it, but the efforts were in vain. The abbatoir is for sale as she explained that the financing is just not available to afford a ‘cut shop.’ 

Ms. Martin is a member of the OSCIA provincial board and represents the Northeast as a director. In her role, she attends eight AGMs, promotes OSCIA, assists local and regional associations and works closely with the local executive. She is also on the wildlife and resolutions and research committees. She mentioned that the Sandhill crane problem is more or less a Northern problem, but is gaining more attention.

She reminded members that OSCIA funds Tier 1 projects up to $1,500 a year for various outreach projects and that a $10,000 annual scholarship is available to soil health students at the University of Guelph under the Tier 2 Applied Research Projects.