Livestock auction traceability plan funded

Canada’s livestock auction marts, assembly yards, privately-owned community pastures, fairs and exhibitions will be able to get federal funding for upgrades that support farm gate-to-grocery traceability.

The federal government on Friday pledged $20 million over the next three years from its Agricultural Flexibility Fund for a Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative, to upgrade handling systems in auction marts and other facilities in order to track individual animals as they’re mixed with other herds.

Contributions under the initiative are meant to help owners of commingling sites to alter animal handling structures, which could include physical infrastructure changes, building modifications or technical and trade services — for example, purchasing and installing gates or pens.

The goal, the government said, is to enhance traceability capacity at sites where live animals routinely commingle, as such sites are considered high-risk areas because diseases could be easily transmitted.

“A superior traceability system also helps protect the security of our food supply by allowing us to quickly and effectively track down a potential problem before it can spread,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a release Friday. “This will, in turn, help us open up new markets for Canadian livestock producers on the world stage.”

The government’s announcement follows a pledge from Canada’s federal and provincial agriculture ministers, who met this week at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., to implement a mandatory comprehensive national traceability system for livestock and poultry by 2011.

“Growing prerequisite”

A national livestock traceability system will be important in addressing future animal health or food recall incidents, and is also a “growing prerequisite” for competing internationally with other livestock-producing countries, the government said.

For example, the Alberta government noted in a separate release Friday that South Korea — whose six-year-old ban on Canadian beef is now the subject of a WTO-level trade dispute — plans to build on its domestic beef tracing system and implement a similar system for imported beef as early as 2010.

“We are pleased to see provinces such as Quebec and Alberta are implementing their own innovative traceability initiatives and we want to build on that success by helping all regions to build a national system,” Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the federal minister of state for agriculture, said in the federal release.

Federal funding has been previously pledged to other traceability-related programs, such as the Canadian Industry Traceability Infrastructure Program for national, industry-led projects for animal and product ID and movement recording.

Another program, Enterprise Infrastructure is a cost-shared federal/provincial program administered by provinces and territories under the Growing Forward policy framework, to provide training and technology support to individual farms and companies.

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