The cattle sector wants the pandemic declared a natural disaster to open up more assistance options under Agri-Recovery
The Canadian Catttlemen’s Association has asked the federal government to deem COVID-19 as a natural disaster under the Agri-Recovery program to open up more assistance options.
“We have asked to eliminate the $3 million cap on Agri-Stability and invoke the late participation clause,” said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the association during a COVID-19 news conference held March 26.
The CCA is meeting with the federal government every week to discuss business risk management programs. The association also wants some attention turned on the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program. There has been considerable market volatility and premiums have become extraordinarily high.
Market reports said trade has been light but dressed sales have improved after struggling the previous week. Butcher cow and bull prices also showed some improvement. Western Canadian cow slaughter volumes were greater than expected at 8,695 head, the second largest weekly cow slaughter in mid-March over the past decade.
The industry wants assurances that the seamless transportation of goods and services over provincial and international borders continues. They also want to ensure truckers are able to move efficiently and safely.
Exports are continuing. There were some backups at ports, but those are starting to clear and containers are starting to come back from Asia.
Demand for beef products around the world is strong and the entire beef chain has been co-operating to keep a steady supply of cattle moving to slaughter facilities working beyond capacity.
“The beef supply chain is functioning quite well. We have actually seen increased production to meet the increased demand that has shifted to retail demand as a result of the restrictions on food services businesses,” Laycraft said.
Most beef demand has shifted to retail since business at food service and restaurants has all but stopped.
As the disease started to spread a number of processing plants enhanced their hazard analysis critical control points standards.
“They have increased what was already some of the strongest hygiene measures in the world plus they are also monitoring workers as they are coming in to make sure anyone coming in is not exhibiting symptoms,” said Laycraft.
So far none are reporting a shortage of hygiene supplies, masks or protective clothing. Some have pulled in products from other parts of their supply system from around the world to meet those needs.
“At this stage one of the important things in being an essential service moving forward is recognition that those supplies are vitally important to get to the food industry,” he said.
Auctions have set up specific protocols and only those essential to the sale may attend.
“The industry has pulled together in a non-competitive approach. Everybody is sharing best practices to make sure we keep the best set of measures in place and keep our frontline food workers and our farmers and ranchers as healthy as possible,” he said.
Temporary foreign workers are also coming and regulatory work is underway to make it possible for them to enter Canada, said Janice Tranberg, head of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association.
Some of the workers’ home countries have their own international travel challenges associated with COVID-19 and leaving their countries may be difficult. The Canadian government is working to ensure these workers are admitted. More information is expected to be posted online.
The workers may arrive through four approved ports. If they arrive with no symptoms they can continue on to their final destinations and then must self-isolate for 14 days.
“They will need to practise all the precautions that everyone else has to, such as social distancing,” she said.
In addition, as more Canadians look for work, there has been an increase in applications for farm positions. It is one way to introduce new people to agriculture, but Tranberg said there is concern these workers will be short term and will quit once they are able to go back to their old jobs.
Complete information on programs may be found at: www.cattle.ca