Since I joined ABP in November 2020, there has been a constant flurry of activity tackling an unprecedented number of issues. I am grateful for the learning experience but more candidly, we all keep hoping and expecting things to return to normal.
I work with politicians and other government staff to provide input on programs that benefit or support our beef industry – working on a wide swath of issues, from programs like AgriStability, to grazing leases, and from environment policy to business risk management. Additionally, as the staff support for the Issues Management Committee, resolutions come through me to action. Once the committee has decided that a particular issue is within ABP’s scope, we work together to find solutions. Whether it’s current issues like recreation on grazing leases or coal development, I work with the committee to research the issue and develop options for the Board of Directors to decide ABP’s direction to resolve it.
This past spring our priority resolutions at ABP included price discovery through the value chain, business risk management, import issues, packing plant closures and rail strikes – all critical interruptions that have detrimental impacts to the livelihood and welfare of cattle and our industry.
A growing concern that we are also working to address this spring, relates to packing plant shortages. At ABP, we’re working on this issue from multiple angles. First, the question of price discrepancy for major packers, and then why there is a lack of medium size packers. On the flip side, even small producers are experiencing a surge in demand from consumers who want to buy beef directly from the farm or a local butcher. There are very few local butchers, and the ones we have are experiencing extremely high demand, with wait times as long as 36 months for a side of beef. One producer I recently spoke to said, “I’m literally breeding a cow now for a calf that I’ve already received an order for.” That simply isn’t sustainable for producers. We need the resources to process our exceptional beef product and the returns that support the bottom line.
Business risk management and insurance continue to be issues of concern for our industry. Whether it is Livestock Price Insurance, AgriStability or wildlife damage insurance, there is much work to do going forward.
Despite the challenges and issues we continue to face, one major success we had in 2021 was the AgriRecovery drought relief program. Although we couldn’t make it rain, we worked diligently with government and fellow producers, and as a result we were able to develop something beyond the typical AgriRecovery model and without the standard receipt-based payments. The result of the program brought producers $340 million in cash advance relief, one of the largest drought payouts in the history of the program. For many producers, this program provided the means to retain their herds and helped alleviate a mass dispersal of our cow herd across the province.
ABP is a grassroots organization. Our “to-do” list comes from producers like you. To add to our to-do list, please join us at regional meetings or talk to a delegate.