Transport rules, BSE dominate minister meeting

Beef industry representatives repeated their message to the federal government last week that impending transportation regulations will not work for their sector.

Several met with agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau for an hour-long meeting during her visit to Canadian Western Agribition.

Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chief executive officer Ryder Lee said the time allowed them to cover a lot of ground.

But two main messages were sent. One is that the transportation regulations set to come into force Feb. 20 could harm the beef industry. The other is that the government must apply to the OIE to have Canada’s BSE risk status upgraded.

“One of the conversations we had was why don’t we have more processing capacity,” Lee said.

More plants closer to production could ease the transportation worries.

He said the cost is prohibitive because Canadian packers have to remove about 50 kilograms of specified risk material from each animal due to the BSE policy.

“In the U.S., it’s about 10 percent of that per animal and they’ve got more export options because their BSE status is different,” Lee said. “If you’re going to build more processing capacity right now, it’s not going to be north of the border.”

He and Canadian Cattlemen’s Association officials stressed the importance of applying for negligible risk status to be able to take advantage of more opportunities.

The federal government is charged with applying for the change in status and Lee said industry is pushing to get that done.

He said packing capacity in Eastern Canada is a problem given Ryding-Regency’s recall woes.

“That’s buyers for our cattle that aren’t getting a price on their fats so that affects us,” Lee said. “If they can’t empty out they can’t refill either.”

The transportation regulations are likely to compound the problems. Industry has warned of the consequences since the requirement to stop and offload cattle to rest them during shipping was announced.

“The rest stops that they’re calling for will take place in a part of northern Ontario that isn’t really full of straw and feed,” Lee said. “The facilities, we’re concerned they aren’t able to accommodate that.”

Producers also continue to ask why they would commingle cattle at a rest stop when there is otherwise so much emphasis on biosecurity and herd protection.

“We’re really concerned about a regulation coming in that’s purportedly for animal health and welfare and it being negative.”

The other concern is economic.

“There’s a real chance of that taking out Ontario buyers from Saskatchewan and lowering the prices Saskatchewan cattle producers get,” Lee said. “That’s an issue in Eastern Canada as well.”

Bibeau asked questions and asked for more information during the discussion, he said.

She heard that there are 20 million acres of hay and grassland in Saskatchewan that are feeding cattle and sequestering carbon.

Lee said they reminded her that “COOL (country of origin labelling) drums are beating in the U.S.” and that exporting to the European Union could be made easier.

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