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Rodeo stock growers hurting

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Manitoba_Rancher

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Rodeo stock growers thrown off by border ban
this document web posted: Wednesday March 9, 2005 20050310p17

By Michael Raine
Saskatoon newsroom

Not all cattle producers dependent on American markets have been eligible for government support programs.

Robert Popoff has been left out of the loop and he's not alone.

He is a small rodeo contractor from Cache Creek, B.C., who had big dreams at the wrong time.

Popoff was breeding and promoting a line of bulls based on Canada's finest bucking stock when BSE was found in Canada.

"What could I do? My summer market for Alaska was shot in one go once that border closed in May of 2003," he said.

He was at the "expensive point" in building his herd when the border closed.

"I can't claim for a set-aside program," he said. "I don't sell meat animals. I didn't have a big history of five-year average profits to point to, but I'm hurting bad and I'm in agriculture and I'm eligible for bugger all in compensation for that border closure."

Popoff has written the federal agriculture minister, the agriculture department and members of Parliament, but despite some sympathetic responses, he has not heard of a plan to compensate his industry.

While Canada will allow American rodeo stock into the country for up to 30 days at a time, the U.S. has not proposed a similar permit system for Canadian animals.

Popoff said the American rules have not followed the OIE, a world organization for animal health, and are contrary to World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreements. As a result the federal government should have offered a compensation package for rodeo breeders.

Popoff built an Old West style saloon facility to promote his stock for tourism and movie set work, but said his rodeo stock was part of the business plan and now all is in jeopardy.

"I'm having to find new ways to make ends meet."

Part of his income is from rodeos and the rest is from the sale of genetics or winning animals, often sold to high-bidding American buyers.

Guy Treat of Big Sky Rodeo Company in Palmer, Alaska, said he depended on Popoff's bulls for his rodeo events.

"These animals would never end up in somebody's meat grinder so I don't see the (U.S. government) position on the rodeo stock," Treat said.

Kelly Armstrong, a rodeo contractor from Big Valley, Alta., said he has missed significant opportunities in U.S. markets.

"I got a call from a guy in Texas recently, looking to buy one of my bulls (a son of the famous Yellow Jacket). It would be a fair bit of money. He didn't realize the border was closed and I didn't get to make the sale. That hurts the bottom line."

Still, Armstrong said he will serve more than 40 rodeos in 2005 and "that keeps my boots worn smooth and helps pay the bills.

"It would be good if there were some government recognition of that lost market, but I'm not counting on it or even that the border will ever open. I'll do what I have to, to make my operation work until somebody tells me the border's open again."

Armstrong said the closure has forced him to put his animal science and farm management degrees to work "more than I might have had to, but this is our business and we do what we have to survive in spite of other people's bad decisions."
 
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