QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC – As COVID-19 swept through processing plants forcing temporary closures or slowed line speeds, livestock producers were forced to make difficult decisions about the growing backlog of animals. Some producers were able to keep their livestock on pastures, while others resorted to culls. Ultimately, keeping or culling animals came with costs to producers.

To assist with those costs, the government of Canada created the Canada-Quebec Livestock Assistance Initiative, a C$21.8 million financial assistance program intended to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020-2021.

“The health crisis caused by COVID-19 continues to put stress on food producers and processors and affect their operations,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “We are aware of the challenges they face, and we are working with the government of Quebec to financially support Quebec’s cattle, pig and large game producers. This initiative will help, among other things, to offset the costs generated by the temporary closure of certain slaughterhouses, to ensure animal welfare, and to preserve the food security of the people of Quebec and Canada.”

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said the rate of livestock slaughter slowed considerably during the spring of 2020. Producers were forced to keep animals longer resulting in significant additional costs for producers in addition to posing risks to the health and welfare of the animals.

“The slowing of slaughter is the result of sanitary measures and the absence of some workers affected by the coronavirus, as well as a substantial drop in demand for large game meat caused by the reduction and cessation of hotel and restaurant activities,” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said.

The Canada-Quebec Livestock Assistance Initiative aims to offset part of the costs borne by livestock producers to keep animals awaiting slaughter on farms until normalcy is restored, the agency said. La Financière agricole du Québec will manage applications for the program until the assistance is paid. Businesses will be able to apply for aid starting May 10.

“In the past 13 months, our farmers have faced daunting financial and logistical challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on the outbreak-affected hog industry, which was already experiencing labor shortages,” said Alexandre Cusson, general manager, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec. “The past year has also reminded us of the importance of each link in the pork chain. If one of them is affected, the whole production is affected. There is therefore an urgent need to reassure our thousands of producers who represent small and medium-sized businesses on a human scale, creating wealth for all regions of Quebec.”