Que. beef, dairy farmers to hustle for Colbex co-op

Quebec’s cattle producer and dairy farmer groups plan to hit the road at month’s end to shop a new ownership model for Eastern Canada’s biggest cull cow slaughter plant.

The Federation des producteurs de bovins du Quebec (FPBQ), Federation des producteurs de lait du Quebec (FPLQ) and Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) plan a series of producer meetings aimed at setting up a co-operative to run the Levinoff-Colbex beef plant at St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, northeast of Drummondville.

Representatives of the three groups expect to meet with farmers in 14 regions between May 30 and June 14, according to a report last week in the UPA’s news organ, La terre de chez nous.

Attendees at the meetings will hear about the groups’ proposed renewal plan for the facility, in which a new co-operative would be formed to take an 80 per cent stake in the business.

For that stake, the co-operative would have to raise at least $2 million through an issue of preferred shares at $1,000 each, La terre’s Julie Mercier wrote Friday.

Producers attending the meetings are to get the opportunity to join the new co-operative, which FPBQ president Claude Viel said could hold its founding meeting as early as this fall if uptake is sufficient.

Once the co-operative is up and running, the FPBQ would cede control of Colbex’s operations to what would become an autonomous new organization, Viel said in La terre.

Levinoff-Colbex slaughters and processes up to 150,000 cull cattle per year and has been described as the only significant cull cow packer for producers in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

The facility was the focus of a blockade by cattle producers in 2004 in the wake of the BSE crisis. Through a $20 per head levy on incoming cull cows from 2004 to 2007, Quebec’s cattle producers bought 80 per cent control of the plant in 2006 and began paying 42 per cents per pound for cattle delivered there.

Producers in 2008 voted to contribute $53.86 per cull cow for a capital injection of $30 million into the facility, then voted last month to pursue the new co-operative ownership model.

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