Ontario beef farmers have approved an increase of $1.50 in checkoff per animal to fund an ambitious industry-wide marketing effort for Ontario beef.
Farmers at the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) annual meeting in Mississauga Feb. 20, voted 87 per cent in favour of the plan. A similar plan was rejected at last year’s annual meeting. As a constitutional change was needed, a two-thirds majority had to approve of the change.
Why it matters: The beef sector has been stagnant or declining in Ontario for years. It is hoped an increase in marketing, tied to the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Programs’ (CFBP) successful history, can change that.
Joe Hill, who was returned as chair of the BFO at the annual meeting, said the proposal was well-thought-out and was the best hope of increasing value in the Ontario beef sector.
“Today is the day to fund it and bring it to life,” he said in making a plea for the approval of the increased checkoff.
Producers heard his request, but it was not a new story for them. After last year’s failure to fund what was called the Regional Marketing Initiative, BFO staff and directors provided extensive opportunity for beef farmer delegates to learn about the proposal during numerous meetings across the province.
That extra explanation seemed to work as the mood in the room at the annual general meeting of the organization was more positive towards the proposal than it was a year ago. That showed in the questions and statements of support before voting.
“We have to try it. I have to trust the people that the people who have been appointed will do their best,” said Stewart Cressman, a Waterloo County beef farmer.
The proposal was different this year with more details on how the program will be managed. A marketing committee has been formed of members of BFO and the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association, led by OCFA executive director Jim Clark, who also leads the association’s corn fed beef program.
The OCFA’s 20-year-old Corn Fed Beef Program now accounts for 30-40 per cent of all cattle processed in the province and has achieved market penetration into many major supermarket chains and also into targeted markets in Asia and the Middle East.
The goal is to use the branding experience of the CFBP to drive more demand and eventually grow the sector, especially the number of cow-calf operations in the province.
“Outcomes have to benefit our beef producers from top and bottom,” said Clark at the BFO meeting. ”BFO and Cattle Feeders have to develop a process that works.”
Beef farmers in Ontario have challenges others in Canada do not, such as being the landing place of 85 per cent of imports from the U.S. and with ready large markets nearby. Cow numbers have declined over the past 10 years, with a stabilizing of numbers in the past three years.