by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The Ontario Cattlemen’s Association has a new name, but an old problem, financing itself.
With no debate Thursday, delegates to the annual convention of the newly renamed Beef Farmers of Ontario soundly defeated a proposal to increase by $1 the $3 a head check-off fee that the group collects every time a head of cattle is sold in the province.
With no increase in income in sight, the organization’s board of directors, who re-elected Dan Darling to a second term as president, will have their work cut out to balance the organization’s budget in coming years. A 2013 budget presented to the meeting on Wednesday predicted a deficit of just over $123,000 in the year ending Dec. 31. Gross income is predicted to be $3.36 million this year, down from $4.948 million in 2012 and $5.085 million in 2011 Of that 2013 income, $1.1 million goes to the National Check-off Agency, funding marketing, promotion and research. The check-off is the main source of income along with another $993,000 this year from the Toronto Stockyards Land Development Board. However, that income is also trending downwards annually.
Income from check-off fees it depends upon are going down as the number of cattle in the province dwindle. Last year, 510,419 fed-cattle and stockers were sold through auction markets in Ontario, compared to more than 535,000 in 2011, and 576,000 in 2010. The total in 2009 was just under 527,000, so numbers have come up, but there were fears expressed that the cow-calf business is being squeezed out as grasslands are converted to grow high value crops.)
The check-off is regulated under the beef Cattle Marketing Act. Of the $3 a head currently collected in Ontario, $2 remains in the province and $1 is sent to the national check-off agency. The last time the check-off was increased in was 2007.
According to documents presented at the meeting, the name was changed to Beef Farmers of Ontario to unite its two current brands, Ontario Cattlemen’s Association and Make it Ontario Beef, ”under one brand, to connect with the broadest possible audience.”
In other business, the future of the cow-calf industry was very much on producers' minds.
Delegates called for continuation of research at New Liskeard and Emo research stations. New Liskeard in particular is one of the only research stations in Eastern Canada conducting forage production and grazing research specific to northern climates. New Liskeard’s prospects are bleak as the province and the University of Guelph, which conducts research there, cut budgets. A local committee is developing options to ensure its future self-sufficiency.
Also on the minds of beef producers were “development of a proper insurance program for Ontario hay and forage crops” through Agricorp, and for established and new abattoirs to receive government financial assistance to upgrade or to build new plants. Beef Farmer delegates also called for the provincial government to allow a “limited paid for hunt,” cull program to reduce the number of coyotes. BF