Beef producers across Western Canada wanting to access funds from a federal/provincial set aside program intended to help with feed costs and loss of in come due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will have to wait a little longer.
Alberta premier Jason Kenney got the ball rolling May 8, announcing that Alberta was joining the federal government in the 40/60 per cent cost sharing program, that would make up to $40 million available to producers. Alberta also offered to administer similar set aside programs for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That was May 8.
Two weeks later, as of May 22 details of the program have yet to be rolled out. Word earlier today from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry ” Terms and conditions for this program are currently under development and will be announced shortly,” said a department statement.
The need for the assistance program became critical in late April as processing capacity at meat packing plants in Alberta as well as other locations across Canada and in the U.S. was greatly reduced due to shutdowns related to the pandemic.
With processing capacity down by 40 to 50 per cent, as many as 10,000 head 0f finished cattle per day were backing up in the beef production chain. Cattle feeders were immediately placing cattle on maintenance feed rations until hundreds of packing plant workers recovered from the coronavirus and improved health and safety measures were incorporated into facilities.
Since about mid-May processing capacity has been gradually increasing, however it will be sometime before it returns to full capacity and that still leaves a backlog of cattle to in the system to be processed. Producers are in need of financial assistance to help cover the cost of holding cattle that are backed up in the system with essentially there is no market.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]