CALGARY, ALBERTA – The Canadian government’s efforts to help the country’s cattle producers don’t go far enough, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) said.

Like their US counterparts, market volatility and interruptions to processing operations caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have thrown Canadian cattle producers into financial turmoil. CCA said 60,000 beef operations face additional revenue losses totaling upwards of C$500 million by the end of June. The solution, CCA said, calls for sufficient business risk management tools implemented without delay.

“The assistance measures announced by the federal government are far from adequate to help beef producers navigate through this critical situation,” said Bob Lowe, president of the CCA. “Any further delay in implementing policies to help us manage through these difficult times will be crippling to the industry. We are facing a challenge every bit as devastating as BSE for the Canadian beef industry and we are doing so without sufficient risk management tools.”

CCA recently developed recommendations for immediate support for producers to keep their operations financially sustainable. The association is asking the Canadian government to:

  • Classify the COVID-19 pandemic a natural disaster under Canada’s AgriRecovery Program;
  • Extend deadlines for producers to repay cash advances under the country’s Advance Payments Program; and
  • Establish infrastructure and governance for a federal Fed-Cattle Set-Aside Program in which feedlot producers would bid to extend the feeding period of cattle up to a maximum of $2/head per day for up to 90 days, among other recommendations. Details of the CCA relief plan can be found here.

The recent announcement that the Cargill beef processing plant in High River, Alberta, will be idling operations has heightened Canadian cattle producers’ sense of urgency.

“While they have indicated that this is a temporary move, the industry must be prepared that this stoppage has the potential to go on for an extended period of time,” CCA said.

The JBS plant in Brooks, Alberta, also reduced processing capabilities due the challenges brought forth by COVID-19. The Cargill and JBS plants combined account for 70% of Canada’s total federally inspected beef processing capabilities.