Farmers tending feeder hogs, fed cattle and big game animals such as elk, red deer, bison and wild boar in Quebec can expect $21.8 million in AgriRecovery to compensate for COVID-19’s drag on the province’s slaughter capacity.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and her Quebec counterpart Andre Lamontagne on Thursday announced their governments’ respective 60-40 shares of funding for the Canada-Quebec Livestock Assistance Initiative.
Eligible farm operators are expected to be able to apply to the program through la Financiere agricole du Quebec (FADQ) starting May 10, up until a registration deadline of July 30.
The applicant must have kept animals on-farm for “a longer period than expected” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from the beginning of the pandemic up until March 31.
The program “aims to offset part of the costs borne by livestock producers to keep animals awaiting slaughter on farms until normalcy is restored,” the governments said in a release.
Quebec’s livestock slaughter pace “slowed considerably” starting last spring, the governments said, leading to “significant additional costs” for producers and risks to the held-back animals’ health and welfare.
The slower slaughter pace, they said, stemmed from “sanitary measures” at affected plants, as well as COVID-related worker absences.
Spearately, the governments noted, game farmers also saw a “substantial drop in demand for large game meat caused by the reduction and cessation of hotel and restaurant activities.”
“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,” Bibeau said in Thursday’s release.
“We will soon learn about the terms of the program and we would like all steer producers who have suffered negative impacts to be compensated,” Jean-Thomas Maltais, president of les Producteurs de bovins du Quebec, said in the same release.
“In the past 13 months, our farmers have faced daunting financial and logistical challenges,” Alexandre Cusson, general manager for les Eleveurs de porcs du Quebec, said in the same release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on the outbreak-affected hog industry, which was already experiencing labour shortages.
“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.”
The big game sector has also seen “a number of challenges over the past few years,” said Josee Toupin, president of la Federation des eleveurs de grands gibiers du Quebec, referring partly to the fallout from a 2018 outbreak of chronic wasting disease in a farmed herd of red deer in the province’s Laurentides region.
That, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, have “completely crushed our markets and put breeders in a precarious situation,” she said.
Similar AgriRecovery initiatives have been previously announced in various areas of Canada in the wake of COVID-19 outbreaks, with at least one more on the way.
The federal and Prince Edward Island governments on Thursday called a virtual news conference to be held Friday afternoon, to announce “a new initiative to assist hog producers affected by processing shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network