BCBA Board of Directors
Back Row L to R: Isobel Vere, Tyrol Forfar, Conrad Schiebel, Steven Boyd, Chris Kayat
Front Row L to R: Bernie Vere, Cyndy Donally, Sharif Fahmy (Missing: Bill Bouffioux)
The BC Bison Association is a registered non-profit society in British Columbia formed when the Peace Country Bison Association and the Interior Bison Association were dissolved so one organization would represent each province. The BC Bison Association is a provincial member of the Canadian Bison Association, the parent organization. The association receives money through a $200 annual membership fee plus the availability to access a share of the $4 tag levy funds for marketing initiatives from the Canadian Bison Marketing Council.
The bison industry in BC is unique in Canada in that bison are considered wildlife in BC and as such are regulated by the Ministry of Environment and administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Under the game farm act, in order to raise bison in BC, the producer must first obtain a “Game Farm Permit” issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. This is a yearly permit and requires an annual inventory report and $100 fee to renew. To protect the BC livestock industry a health declaration from the selling herd must accompany bison imported from other provinces or states. The game farm act also restricts bison raising to freehold tenure and prohibits grazing on crown land. This severely prohibits expansion of the BC Bison herd, as grazing leases and grazing permits are an integral part of many BC ranches.
The BC bison industry is relatively small with provincial government stats showing 52 licensed ranches and 7300 head of bison. this is a significant 30% drop in numbers since the 2007 reporting. Low prices had discouraged production and many ranches disposed of their entire herds, a similar situation is occurring in the Peace Country beef herds. It will be interesting to see how the recent surge in prices for both feeders and finished animals will affect the production. With diverse and great distances between producers marketing, transportation and bison production create challenges. In the past without a strategic plan, liaison with the Provincial Government has been very limited and mainly restricted to communications with the provincial bison industry development specialists. (the association greatly acknowledges this communication and assistance).
In 2008 the BCBA initiated several new projects including a new web site. A strategic plan with a great "Bison Industry Profile" introduction, courtesy of Jim Forbes and members of the BC Ministry of Agriculture is nearly completed and will be available soon on the website. The BCBA has also requested ongoing dialogue with BC Ministry of Environment re escaped/transplanted bison and with BC Ministry of Tourism regarding licensing of AT vehicles used on public lands.
The provincial Meat Enhancement Act implemented in 2008 has placed an undue hardship on bison producers with requirements for provincial or federal inspection of any meat products leaving the farm. Presently, access to slaughter facilities with inspection facilities are unavailable in specific areas and can require long hauling distances that increase transportation costs. stress and potential injury to the animals. Older bison bulls or cranky cows can also present problems in that they can be impossible to corral, tag or load and present extreme danger to life and/or handling and hauling facilities.
There is an ongoing need to keep members informed of government regulations, research results, disease issues etc. Currently this has mainly occurred through the Canadian Bison Association’s emails, web site and Smoke Signals Magazine.
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