Alberta’s agriculture minister is sharing new information regarding the cattle set-aside program that’s being rolled out to address the backlog of cattle as processing capacity has been limited by COVID-19.
A couple of weeks ago, the Alberta government announced they would be providing provincial funding in addition to the federal AgriRecovery funds for the set-aside program that was being requested by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Devin Dreeshen, shared some more details on Thursday (May 28.)
“What we’re planning on doing with our fed cattle set aside is to do an initial payment of about $2 per head per day on eligible fed cattle. Ultimately what we wanted to do, and what we are going to do, is set up a bid process,” Dreeshen explains, in the interview below. “Every week there will be a 48 hour bid that will dictate which cattle get processed and when,” adding that right now there are over 100,000 head that are backlogged in the system currently.
The timeline on the 48-hour bid program is taking longer than the government had hoped, but this is why they have decided to do a two-step approach to the set-aside program. It is expected that Saskatchewan will run a similar program with its funding.
The $2 per head per day fed cattle is the first step of the program, as urgency is required right now. The Alberta government hopes to move into more of a bid system as time goes on. As of now, the program will be set up for the first nine weeks, and an assessment will follow. However, Dreeshen note that the funding the Alberta government has could extend for up to 30 weeks.
In order to qualify for the funding, Dreeshen says there will be weigh-in and weigh-out qualifications. As of now, the qualifications are not completely clear, as details from the federal government will be rolled out.
“After the original fed cattle set-aside program that was set up during BSE, that was one of the lessons learned that we have set up in this program. In addition to that, during BSE, we had no capacity to ship down to the U.S.,” says Dreeshen. “Obviously their meat processors are having issues as well, but some of that capacity is coming back on stream right now.”
If there is a need come fall and winter and COVID-19 comes back for a strong second wave, Dreeshen adds there will be opportunity for a set-aside program that isn’t just for fed cattle. They are also looking at creating a committee for the program, which would allow for industry involvement and representation from Alberta Beef Producers, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in the process.
Check out the full conversation between Minister Dreeshen and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney, below: