Manitoba beef producers are hoping a provincial cabinet consolidation will mean action at long last on predation losses.
They’ve had a long-standing complaint, but it was an agriculture issue that was under the authority of the provincial Conservation Ministry.
Now fish and wildlife management is part of the new provincial Department of Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development.
Previous agriculture minister, Ralph Eichler, was moved to head up the new Department of Economic Development and Training, while Blaine Pedersen, former minister for growth, enterprise and trade, took over the expanded portfolio, which also covers mining, forestry and watershed management.
Will an expanded department of agriculture and resource development influence predation policy, now that fish and wildlife management has been rolled in?
Premier Brian Pallister cited a need for more synergy between government portfolios when announcing the shuffle.
Pedersen also noted that the expanded department would eliminate many instances where producers were forced to deal with two or more government departments on an issue.
The beef sector has previously expressed frustration with what it describes as a lack of movement on its predation concerns.
The issue has risen in prominence in recent years, with six separate resolutions gaining overwhelming support on hunting and predation changes at the MBP AGM in 2018.
At the time, MBP argued that some producers were seeing herd percentage losses in the double digits, while individual producers noted struggles with herd stress, increased abortions and lack of productivity on top of outright kills.
That year, MBP received federal funding to support the Livestock and Predation Working Group, a multi-stakeholder group that has been occupied with looking at strategies from other provinces and developing a plan for Manitoba.
The group initially hoped to have a pilot in place this fall, MBP president Tom Teichroeb said. Following a stressful year for the beef sector, that’s now likely to come to pass next fall, he said.
“We’ll be taking the first opportunity that we have to… mention how long we’ve worked on this file and that even as an organization, we’ve even invested in the process, that we want to see progress,” Teichroeb said.
Representatives from the province could not say if there would be any new direction on predation policy, given the combined departments.
The province pointed to existing programs over email, such as the Problem Predator Removal Program. The program is operated through the Manitoba Trappers Association and, “allows producers to enlist the services of a problem predator trapper from the MTA at no cost to the producer. Trappers can be requested if a producer has had a claim for a predator attack on livestock (i.e. has submitted a compensation claim to MASC),” a spokesperson said.
According to the province, that program gets about 30 calls and removes about 125 coyotes, wolves or foxes each year.
Last year, the program responded to 39 calls and removed 137 problem predators.