Recent History – 2004
By Gary Rusak
The Peace Country Tender Beef Co-op is hoping to increase its membership by as much as one-third after indications from the federal government that it would be willing to subsidize shares for producers that cannot afford them.
“We asked the federal government to consider buying hook shares on behalf of the producers,” said Neil Peacock, chairman of the Co-op.
“When they bring their animals to the plant we take off the price of the hook share plus the applicable amount of interest and ship that to the federal government to pay off that loan.”
With federal assistance Peacock believes that the Co-op could increase its membership from the current 616 to close to 1,000. A share in the fledgling cooperative costs $60 with a requirement of a minimum purchase of 10 per producer. A share, or hook, is a promise from the rancher to the Co-op to sell one head of livestock, in keeping with the Co-op’s feed and care standards, at a predetermined price.
A cap was put on the sale of shares late last year, but Peacock said in light of the new developments the board is happy to be able to open up the membership once again.
“We capped it off because you have to stop at a certain point,” he said. “But, we didn’t realize that there were people out there that wanted to be a part of the Co-op but didn’t sign up because they are broke.”
The Co-op wants to make its proposed $7.2 million Dawson Creek slaughterhouse, slated for a summer opening, as inclusive as possible.
“I should have told people that even if you can’t afford it to put your application in anyway,” said Peacock. “Because the cooperative is there for the producers. We need the money, but it’s not fair to shut someone out just because they don’t have the cash. That’s a cold corporate way of doing business, not the cooperative way.”
The Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Agriculture Wayne Easter favourably received the hook subsidy plan last month at a meeting in Fort St. John, Peacock said.
“We had a real good heart-to-heart with him and he expressed a strong interest,” said Peacock. “Basically he said ‘give it to me as fast as we can and we will do it’, but that’s not a guarantee. He still has to go get ministerial and Parliamentary approval.”
According to Peacock, the influx of 300 new members will not change the basic design or operation of the plant.
“When we closed our membership we hit 25 head per hour,” said Peacock explaining that the plant’s full capacity will be 50 head per hour.
“Even if an additional 300 people signed up we would still have that grace period. We would have to hire seven more people and build more coolers but because it’s modular it’s not a big expensive deal — it’s not a huge expense.”
The Co-op plans to formally submit its hook subsidy plan to the Minister of Agriculture in the next two weeks.