Beef producers ask federal government for investment and assistance program

The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) and Les Producteurs de bovins du Québec (PBQ) are calling on federal party leaders to include, as a first priority in the mandate of the Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food, a beef cattle investment and assistance program to help farmers in Ontario and Quebec mitigate the harm of recent trade and market disruptions.

In a backgrounder, the organizations say, “while the economic opportunity from export markets has reached record significance, growing trade and market disruption challenges are becoming unmanageable for beef farmers and severely hampering the viability and sustainability of the beef sector,” adding that trade deal vehicles, such as CETA, haven’t delivered on promised benefits due to “on-going trade barriers related to Canada’s domestic meat inspection and processing system.”

The Ontario and Quebec beef producer groups explain even as Canadian producers and processors have been unable to capitalize on European market access, European exports to Canada are increasing, displacing locally produced product.

“The loss of key export markets in China and Saudi Arabia, combined with reduced processing capacity in Eastern Canada and market access challenges in the U.S. and the E.U., has created a perfect storm,” says BFO president, Joe Hill. “Beef farmers have incurred losses of more than $180 per animal since the beginning of January, largely as a result of government action and inaction. Collective beef cattle farm losses in the two provinces have exceeded $100 million since the start of the year. On the cattle feeding side alone, the industry is losing more than $2.5 million per week on average, which is simply not sustainable. Something needs to be done.”

The two organizations point to recent government payouts to the supply managed sectors to “offset losses incurred or expected as a result of recent trade agreements and disruptions through direct compensation payments, infrastructure assistance, and quota value protection.”

The beef sector deserves an equitable level of support and assistance proportionate to the harm beef farmers have received, the groups say.

In addition, issues within the industry that the groups would like addressed in a program include:

  • Too few processors placing bids on cattle to ensure a competitive, healthy market;
  • Processors are running at or near capacity as a result of an influx of dairy cull cows, a healthy supply of fed beef cattle, and reduced marketing options south of the border; and
  • Periods of backlog in processing are becoming more frequent and severe, requiring farmers to feed cattle at increased cost for longer periods. When processing space is eventually secured, farmers are then penalized for overweight animals.
  • Reduced funding for  Business Risk Management (BRM) programs

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