Statement: federal assistance to livestock sector a start, but gaps remain to be addressed
Posted May 5, 2020
The Government of Canada today announced a series of initial initiatives aimed at supporting the beef industry, among other agriculture and food sectors. Key elements include $50 million in funding for a set-aside program through AgriRecovery (federal government to cover 60 per cent of costs and the provinces have the option to fund the remaining 40 per cent); $77.5 million funding to support business continuity in agriculture processing facilities (such as accessing personal protective equipment and automating or modernizing operations); and, an increase in the AgriStability interim payment from 50 to 75 per cent, with an extension of the deadline to July 3, 2020.
Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) sees value in these initiatives, but it is very disappointed that the announcement does not fully address all elements of the comprehensive strategy that is being advanced by Canada’s cattle and beef industry to help ensure long-term economic sustainability for our farmers and ranchers.
While the announcement of the set-aside program is important, there are questions as to whether the funds will be sufficient to address the needs. There is a growing backlog of cattle awaiting processing, and the value of market ready cattle has dropped more than $500 per head since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to estimates from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, if the situation is not addressed, the beef industry will lose $500 million by June just on market ready cattle. As well, MBP will be seeking clarification as to whether the Manitoba government will be making a contribution to the set-aside program.
Of key importance to Manitoba’s beef industry is the need to swiftly address the steep hike in premiums under the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program. Having affordable, bankable and responsive business risk management tools is critical to the success of operations, particularly for young and new beef producers. This program purchase deadline is rapidly approaching and MBP is calling on government to urgently address this issue.
Equally important will be for government to revisit other asks advanced by the beef industry with respect to business risk management programs. These include enhancing the Advance Payments Program by: increasing the interest free portion for beef cattle to $500,000; increasing the overall cash advance limit to $3 million, and; extending repayment terms for beef cattle to 36 months. Within AgriStability, industry is seeking the removal of the reference margin limit, the elimination of the $3 million payment cap, raising the payment trigger to 85% and the swifter processing of interim claims.
Manitoba’s cattle producers are deeply committed to providing consumers with access to safe, high quality and nutritious products, and they are an essential part of Canada’s food production system. MBP, along with other industry partners, will continue discussions with government about the pressing need for effective programs and risk management tools to help move the cattle and beef sector through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges. The Prime Minister has acknowledged that if more help is needed, the government is prepared to determine what needs to be done. That consideration needs to occur now.
Note: The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, of which MBP is a member, has also issued a statement on this matter. It is available here.
Manitoba Beef Producers is the exclusive voice of the beef industry in Manitoba, representing 6,500 producers across the province. The mission of MBP is to represent all beef producers through communication, advocacy, research, and education—within the industry and to governments, consumers and others, to improve prosperity and ensure a sustainable future.
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