Recent History – 2005
By Gary Rusak
The Peace Country Tender Beef Co-op is now targeting early spring 2006 as a possible opening date for its proposed Dawson Creek slaughterhouse. On Friday, PCTB director Seth Barnfield said that a long-awaited financing deal is in the works with a credit union based in Prince George.
“It sounds like it is getting into the nitty gritty of the whole thing,” he said. “I never thought stuff takes so long, but once that deal is done (the contractors) say it will be about 28 weeks from the time we sign the paper until there is blood on the floor.”
The original plan was for the member-owned $6 million custom slaughter facility to be opened this spring. However, difficulty securing funding has stymied the efforts of the directors. Barnfield said that although the co-op has secured more than 600 memberships from producers across the Peace Country, local MP Jay Hill was not willing to go to bat for them with the federal government.
“My opinion is that… the response was not the greatest,” he said. “More or less he said ‘go ahead and do it yourself.'”
Barnfield added that he believes that the reluctance of the federal government to come forward with loan guarantees for the innovative project is further evidence of its attitude toward the western ranching community.
“The federal government had no difficulty providing Bombardier with loans of more than $66,000 per job created in central Canada,” he said. “If we were to get similar consideration Ottawa would have to lend us almost $50 million for the direct and indirect jobs we are creating and family farms we expect to save.”
The plan is for the Dawson Creek plant to be built to European Union standards and include pasture to plate tracking, 100 per cent BSE testing and high quality control standards. It is estimated the plant would employ more than 100 people and at some point include a state-of-the-art biodigester electric generation system.
The PCTB idea was developed as a response to the closing of the United States border to live cattle two years ago. It has garnered much interest in the local ranching community, as well as across the country, for its attempt to increase slaughter capacity in Canada and the investigation of other international markets for Canadian cattle.
Although the plan has met with many delays, Barnfield said that innovative ideas often take a while to take hold. As well, he added that other producer cooperative movements across the country are also facing stumbling blocks.
“We are getting calls from all the other co-ops around wondering how come we are going so fast,” he said.