The producer organization representatives see the federal funding as a good first step
On May 5, the federal government announced $252 million of funding for the agricultural and agri-food sector in Canada. Of this investment, $125 million is dedicated to the national AgriRecovery program for cattle and hog producers.
“It's a start. The prime minister said in his remarks it was a good starting point and that more help will be needed,” said Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).
Many sectors in ag are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s especially true for livestock producers, said Lewis.
“The closure of the processing plants has really affected not only producer’s ability to ship their animals but also the value of the animals they have in their herds. So, there are losses that aren't sustainable. We'll lose people out of the industry – nobody wants to see that. We'll lose capacity in our industry as well,” Lewis told Farms.com.
Producers in the livestock sectors in Saskatchewan are moving closer to crisis mode. Cattle producers, for example, need to keep animals longer because of processing plant closures, said Lewis.
“In the pork industry and other livestock sectors, there’s far less elasticity as far as being able to keep animals on hand. In some cases, there's going to be some very hard decisions around euthanizing animals and culling herds. If that occurs, we certainly don't want to see those producers have to exit the industry. They need to be compensated so they can start another producer cycle and still be able to be there as we work our way through COVID-19, out of COVID-19 and into the future,” he said.
While the funding is a start to help producers, it’s far from the $2.6 billion the Canadian Federation of Agriculture requested.
“There was a lot of due diligence behind that request; it wasn't just a number plucked out of the air. We're impressing upon the government that there's a reason that number was arrived at and to continue looking at the ask. The timing for a lot of the money is going to be paramount to affect production cycles so we don't see loss of production, food security and food supply for Canada and our international customers,” said Lewis.
APAS representatives will keep pushing for funding for producers. Organizational leaders also outlined several policy recommendations to support the livestock sector.
“Farmers want to do their part and we are (part of) an industry that is a major economic driver in the country. I think keeping agriculture viable and sustainable throughout COVID-19 is going to really lead the economy coming out of COVID-19,” Lewis said.
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