Livestock groups ‘deeply disappointed’ in federal aid

Canada’s cattle and hog producers say new funding from Ottawa falls short of their expectations, causing them to continue to carry a heavy financial burden during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal funding provides $125 million through AgriRecovery for the pork and beef sectors, but the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said yesterday it is deeply disappointed by the new money.

Additional measures include $77.5 million to support processing facilities and changes to AgriStability, in which interim payments can be increased from 50 percent to 75 percent.

However, the CCA said only one of the organization’s three recommendations was addressed through partial funding.

It acknowledged the help for the processing sector, but urged more support is needed.

“We greatly appreciate (federal agriculture) minister (Marie-Claude) Bibeau and her work for putting agriculture on the table and for this announcement, however… from a beef industry viewpoint it falls quite a bit short of what we need to maintain a thriving industry,” said CCA president Bob Lowe during a press conference.

“It’s just too little. I won’t say too late. It’s just too little,” he said.

The Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) has requested support from the province. It said funds from Ottawa fall short.

As well, ABP said the government is considering its request and it anticipates an announcement in the coming days.

The Canadian Pork Council has also raised concerns.

It said while additional help is welcome, the funding doesn’t go far enough. It said pork producers remain at risk because of the limited support.

Pork producers estimate they will lose $675 million in 2020. They have been asking for $20 per hog to maintain their businesses.

“We’re fighting hard not to lose what we have today. Without an emergency aid for Canadian pork producers, family farms will be threatened, continue to be threatened, and the risk of the food supply disruption increases and at a minimum food insecurity will increase as supplies tighten and food gets more expensive. None of us need that,” said CPC chair Rick Bergmann during the press conference.

“This announcement today provides really little meaningful support for the pork producer.”

The CCA estimates there is a backlog of 100,000 head because of the reductions in processing capacity. It said an additional 6,000 to 9,000 head of cattle per day are being added to the current accumulation.

The organization estimates it costs $400,000 per day to feed 100,000 head. As well, it noted the value for market ready animals have dropped by more than $500 per head.

It estimates the industry will lose $500 million by June.

The CCA has recommended a set-aside program to help with costs, but said the announced funds only cover a fraction.

It has also recommended the government share costs in livestock price insurance premiums.

As well, it wants the government to enhance the Advance Payments Program and further adjust other business risk management programs.

It said AgriStability doesn’t provide meaningful protection for most producers.

“We need insurance, it’s our main risk management tool, it is especially important for our young and new beef producers,” Lowe said. “Without these tools I am concerned that many beef operations, particularly our young producers, will fail or be forced to sell their cattle.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has also expressed disappointment. It had initially asked for $2.6 billion.

The government will be covering 90 percent of expenses in AgriRecovery. It will pay 60 percent of the total share and expects the provinces to pay the remaining 40 percent.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit has said the province has concerns with the cost-share agreement.

He said it’s challenging for provinces to shore up finances to cover the 40 percent.

“The 40 percent they are asking is a big number when we are looking at the cattle and hog sectors,” he said. “We’ve made it clear to the federal minister, during the last three calls, that our fiscal capacity is limited.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has said the province is reviewing the program changes. He said it will take the request for provincial support into full consideration.

Alberta has not yet commented on the cost-share agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said more help will come if needed.

On top of the new funding, the federal government has provided $50 million to help farmers pay for isolation costs for temporary foreign workers; $20

million to bolster food inspection; $100 million for food banks; and $5 billion in increased lending capacity through Farm Credit Canada.

Business risk programs provide farmers with $1.6 billion in support each year.

— With files from Barb Glen


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