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B.C. ranching task force convenes

British Columbia’s government has convened the ranching task force it pledged in May with an eye on “a new direction for the B.C. cattle industry.”

The task force, which met Tuesday in the Lower Mainland, is co-chaired by Roland Baumann, a rancher at Vanderhoof, 100 km west of Prince George, and president of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association. The other co-chair, Kamloops area MLA Terry Lake, was recently named parliamentary secretary to the task force.

“It’s become obvious that we need to explore innovative ways of doing business in order to sustain this vital industry,” provincial Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson said in a release.

“This task force will bring together a range of knowledgeable people, and together we’ll make recommendations that will revitalize ranching in B.C.”

“Our cattle industry has a tremendous product and a huge potential market for it right here in B.C.,” Lake said in Tuesday’s release. “We want to see more B.C. families seeking out local beef for their table, and we’ll be exploring opportunities to do that along with other strategies to make the ranching industry successful.”

The task force has already agreed that it will use video and teleconferencing options to hold future meetings, in the interest of saving money and fuel.

The task force is expected to make recommendations to Thomson by this fall.

“Five things”

Premier Gordon Campbell, who announced the task force in May at the BCCA’s annual meeting in Kamloops, said at the time that given the current fiscal situation, regulatory changes would need to be discussed in order to sustain the province’s cattle sector.

Campbell was quoted by the farmers’ newspaper Country Life in B.C. as telling the BCCA that cattle producers have to put their issues on the table, and that the task force should determine the policy and regulatory steps the province can take so the government and industry can “get on with dealing with them.”

The newspaper also quoted Campbell as suggesting the cattle producers not bring “too many” issues forward: “You can’t deal with 100 things first. You need to deal with five things first. We have to recognize the things we can’t change and the things we can.”

Baumann was quoted in the same article as saying the BCCA has pledged to step up and maintain the frequency of its dialogue with Campbell’s office on issues affecting the industry.

“When Premier Campbell addressed our annual meeting in Osoyoos in 2005, he invited us to keep in touch. We kind of dropped the ball on that,” Baumann was quoted as saying in Country Life in B.C.’s June issue.

Apart from Lake and Baumann, task force members include BCCA past president Ed Salle; BCCA vice-president Judy Guichon; British Columbia Association of Cattle Feeders president Bill Freding; Karen Kochel, president of the British Columbia Breeders and Feeders Association; B.C. Agriculture Council executive director Andy Dolberg; Robin Smith, president of the British Columbia Food Processors Association; and “independent rural representative” Ella Brown.

Ex-officio task force members include provincial deputy agriculture minister Larry Pedersen and deputy forests and range minister Dana Hayden.

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