Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) says tumbling prices and waterlogged pastures have caused a tough year for the province’s cattle producers.
“We all know what has happened to cattle prices, they have done nothing but fall since 2015. Feedlot margins are getting tighter and tighter, and then it has just been a year like no other in terms of weather. It has been a tough summer and a tough fall,” said MBP general manager, Brian Lemon at the District 7 meeting, held in Birtle on Nov. 10.
MBP staff have been travelling through the association’s 14 districts, beginning in Ashern on Oct. 24, to provide members with an update of the organization’s activities, review financial reports, bring forward resolutions and gather producer input to help shape the direction of the association moving forward.
“We have seen a number of resolutions come forward. Carbon pricing is something that is front of mind for a lot of our producers, and depending on the district, we’ve got concerns around problem predators and the use of Crown lands, all of those have all been repeatedly discussed,” Lemon said.
Lemon, who is a new addition to the organization, taking on the role of general manager in April, adds that one of the largest issues facing beef producers has been finding qualified labour.
“Prices are falling, tractors are sinking, but probably the single biggest challenge to this industry right now is labour and finding enough labour,” Lemon said. “It is an issue at the processing, which doesn’t affect us in Manitoba too closely. But, where do you find a qualified man to help you? Labour is an issue, something we are aware of and we are taking part in labour market consultations.”
At last year’s annual general meeting, MBP passed a resolution to increase the national checkoff, which funds marketing and promotion as well as industry research on a national scale, from $1 per head to $2.50 per head, something that is expected to come into play within the coming year.
“We are not sure exactly when that is going to start happening. Our best guess right now is in July 2017,” Lemon said.
The increase will be on hold until all of the provinces have taken the steps to increase contributions to ensure equitable contributions across the country.
“We want to make sure, as best we can, that all of the provinces enact the increase at the same time. You don’t want to have this varying across different provinces,” Lemon said.
The sector is also keeping a close watch on a number of different trade markets.
Lemon says the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) offers the sector a lot of promise, but not without a few obstacles.
“In theory it is providing us 65,000 tonnes’ worth of market access into Europe, which if you think about it in percentage is about an additional 20 per cent to our exports, and that is significant,” Lemon said. “The issue that we have with Europe and this deal is that we have some technical requirements we need to work our way through first.”
According to Lemon, Canada’s two main slaughter facilities in Alberta, JVS and Cargill, use antimicrobial carcass washes that have not been approved for the European Union (EU).
“The industry is currently looking at this and what may need to be done to get these washes approved by the EU,” Lemon said.
Trade in Mexico was also discussed, as that country opened its markets to Canada on October 1.
“Mexico right now is our third-largest export market. It is a good market for us as well because the demand in Mexico is for a lot of the cuts that we don’t have a lot of domestic demand for,” Lemon said.
As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, MBP, like the rest of the agriculture industry, is waiting to see what will happen following the recent presidential election.
MBP membership will gather again in the new year at the association’s annual general meeting that is scheduled for February 2 and 3 in Brandon.
“This year’s AGM’s theme is ‘Sharing our story.’ We need to tell our story and be proud of our story and that is what this will be about,” Lemon said.