As producers we have faced many hardships, but the extent of this year’s drought is staggering. It is so widespread it creates feelings of helplessness. We can’t make it rain, and we struggle to find feed for our animals.
Thinking about the drought and how to address it has taken my full attention these past few months. But one thing I continue to focus on, and I hope we can all remember, is this: we’re struggling with this drought together. You are not alone.
In fact, the ABP staff and leadership have worked very hard on behalf of all Alberta beef producers this summer. When we realized the seriousness of this issue, we set up meetings with the provincial premier and other government officials. We met in boardrooms and in pastures to ensure they saw firsthand and fully understood the extent of the damage this drought has caused.
Standing out in the field seeing the devastation for themselves was eye-opening — from opening empty pods of barley to seeing barley growing to our ankles that should have been up to our thighs, to raising the dust in empty pastures, with nothing growing for cattle to eat. We were also able to highlight the extreme importance of this industry in Alberta and point out the significant contribution that agriculture brings to our economy.
As a result of the work of ABP and other industry partners, we were able to secure a guaranteed government payout of $200 per head through the 2021 Canada-Alberta Livestock Feed Assistance initiative “AgriRecovery,” which I hope will help some of you get through this drought. Not only did we secure this funding, we did so in a timely manner, before the election was called.
As we look ahead to spring 2022, we’ll all hope for more moisture. But even with moisture, the recovery of our pastures and feedstock is going to take a long time. It will be important for ABP to be able to continue to support our industry through advocacy and communications.
Like the entire beef industry, ABP faces challenging budgeting issues. Producers often wonder what the ROI is on their check-off dollars. In this case, the answer is clear. The $2 per head check-off is a tiny fraction of the $200 per head we’ve secured for producers through our lobbying efforts. With this in mind, it is our hope that all producers throughout Alberta will see the value and extreme importance of the check-off, to ensure we can continue to support this industry and advocate on your behalf.
Additionally, we now provide producers with outstanding communication tools you can use to stay current about what’s happening with ABP and the industry. We hope you’ll engage with the tools that work for you to keep up with what we’re accomplishing together, and to learn how we accountably use your check-off dollars.
On the bright side, we might consider this drought as a chance to hit the refresh button, and find new ways of looking at our operations. Also, we can look to the good news change in status on the BSE front. After a decade of digging our way out of market closures, and another decade of BSE testing, we can finally expand into all the markets that locked us out.
It’s also encouraging looking ahead – the forecast and projections in the years ahead show an upswing in prices, largely reliant on the industry’s inventory levels. For those producers who can hang on and feed their animals for the next few years, the pay-offs will be greater.
One positive that has come out of this drought is a growing understanding by government of the importance of the beef industry in Alberta. Our industry is an important economic factor in employment, sustainable development, and food production. If we didn’t have this crisis, we wouldn’t have been meeting government officials in the pasture. We need to meet with our government more often, and we need an emergency preparedness plan for the future. These are some of the things I intend to get working on in the near future.
Finally, a reminder that, because we’re in this together, it is important for each of us to tend to our own mental health. Lend an ear to your peers, and find at least one other person who you can talk to who might understand what you’re going through.
This article was first published in the September 2021 edition of ABP Magazine. Watch for more digital content from the magazine.