Cattle and pork producers tell MPs $100 million for set-aside is not enough

After the funding announcement in early May, CCA president Bob Lowe noted that amount of money had already been spent and much more was needed to maintain a thriving industry


By D.C. Fraser, Glacier FarmMedia

via The Western Producer (Canada) - May 15, 2020


A federal committee was told the $50 million made available by Ottawa for a set-aside program in the beef industry has already been spent, according to the Canadian Cattleman’s Association.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced up to $50 million in AgriRecovery funding was being earmarked to fund a COVID-19 set-aside program for cattle producers, allowing them to keep their animals longer before marketing and help mitigate temporary closures of processing plants.


After the funding announcement in early May, CCA president Bob Lowe noted that amount of money had already been spent and much more was needed to maintain a thriving industry.


Those comments were echoed by Lowe during his testimony to the standing committee on agriculture on May 8.


“If you take the number of cattle that are backed up, that $50 million was actually gone about two weeks ago. It won’t last very long,” he said.


CCA members told the committee during the online meeting that estimates showed between $35 million and $135 million is needed to continue storing and feeding excess cattle, predicting the need would be on the higher end of the estimate.


They also explained to the committee why existing business risk management programming does not work for beef producers. Much of the federal response to COVID-19 has worked within the framework of existing BRM programs.


According to the CCA, one of the primary programs the government points to for producer support, AgriStability, does not work for its members.


AgriStability largely operates based on reference margin limits, but many producers — particularly cow and calf producers — have low eligible expenses, in part because they often produce their own feed and have low labour costs.


That means their margins must drop farther than other commodities before triggering payments from the program. The CCA is proposing the federal government remove the reference price limits and payment caps for cattle producers to make AgriStability more effective.


CCA representatives also told the committee more support was needed for livestock price insurance.


While the program varies from region-to-region (and is non-existent in the Maritimes) the CCA focused on Western Canada.


Due to the pandemic, insurance costs are high and premiums are tied to markets. The cost of buying insurance is too costly for many producers, and they have only until the end of May to decide if it’s a worthwhile or affordable expense.


The CCA proposes the cost of insurance be shared by provinces, Ottawa and the industry. While some provinces have expressed support in doing so, the federal government has not yet committed to such a plan.


An additional $50 million from AgriRecovery is also is being allocated to help pork producers manage their herds, but MPs were told that amount is insufficient as well.


In a May 12 committee meeting, Rick Bergmann, chair of the Canadian Pork Council, told MPs producers have been “pushed into a crisis” and continue to seek meaningful help from government.


“Producers are not confident of their future to help with the rebuild post-COVID-19,” he said during his opening remarks...