Beef Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association are hoping to work together to market Ontario-branded beef and engage consumers.
The joint committee’s activities would be funded by a checkoff that Beef Farmers of Ontario hopes will be approved at its annual meeting in late February.
“This will avoid duplication of costs, make better use of your check-off dollars, and ensure sharper focus and better results for Ontario’s beef farmers,” said Joe Hill, president of BFO, at the 2019 Beef Industry Convention.
Why it matters: The beef sector is challenged to make sure profits flow all the way through the farmer supply chain, from cow/calf to backgrounding to cattle feeders. It is hoped strong market initiatives will create more value throughout the chain and encourage more cow/calf operators in the province.
“The cattle feeders are doing everything they can to continue to be committed to the market,” says Jim Clark, executive director with the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association. The end goal of the initiative is to open up opportunities and ultimately raise the price on beef across the province.
The joint marketing approach is being led by Jim Clark, who has been with the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program for over 20 years. It will consist of six members – three from Beef Farmers of Ontario, Rob Lipsett, Craig McLaughlin and Jason Reid, as well as three from Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association.
“The committee will provide overarching support and promotion for all Ontario beef brands in domestic and international markets by working with farmers and our partners in the processing, retail and foodservice sectors,” said Hill.
The budget for the joint marketing committee was outlined at the 2019 Ontario Beef Convention including domestic, global and regional market development. The marketing portion intentions are to move more Ontario beef into the marketplace and displace product coming in from other provinces and countries.
“If we support the existing brand and new brands and it’s sold under a brand name, it will bring a higher price,” said Hill.
The stronger the sector is on marketing, the more positive outcomes for all aspects in the Ontario beef industry and the money will trickle down all the way to the cow/calf operations, said Clark.
The second part of the program is producer engagement. These are tools targeted to positively impact cow-calf producers and encourage sector growth.
“It’s about helping to get information out to our producers on ways to improve their operations,” he said. It will help young producers get involved and help connect them with mentors and help everyone do a better job and wanting to produce products to meet a specific brand.
They are currently running a series of webinars prominently focused on youth and work closely with county associations to give them tools to work with their members.
The third part of the program is tailored to the consumer engagement. It aims to drive awareness to the consumers of Ontario beef and beef products through digital, social media and public relations. As well, studies will be conducted around consumer trends and purchasing behaviours.
Hill says he wants to strengthen their social media presence with this program, especially around the social issues of food safety and environmental impacts.
”There is lots of information sponsored by people who are not impartial and we have to counter act that with what we see as being truth and ensure all information is out there and help [the consumers] make informative decisions,” he said.
In order to fund all of these changes there is a proposed provincial check-off increase by $1.50. Of that increase 25 cents will go towards the BFO producer and consumer engagement and the remaining $1.25 to the BFO and OCFA marketing committee.
The creation of the increase marketing checkoff to fund what was called the Regional Marketing Initiative was first rejected at the 2018 Beef Farmers of Ontario Annual General Meeting.
The constitutional change required to fund the checkoff needed 66 per cent support and got 61 per cent support.
Hill says that this year more questions have been answered and more information has been provided to the Ontario producers, especially as to where the money will go. The producers needed more time and more information and Hill hopes it will pass at this years Beef Farmers of Ontario Annual General Meeting.
The proposal will come forward at the 2019 Beef Farmers of Ontario AGM taking place Feb. 20-21 in Toronto. At this event all Ontario counties will be represented and they can decide whether they want to approve this check-off increase.
“I think it really starts to push us in a little different direction from what we’ve done in the past, we’re going to take the association down a little different path,” said Hill “I think it’s a good step for our industry and I hope the producers see that as well.”