While Alberta cattle producers welcome the funding, more help is needed, they say
On May 7, the Government of Alberta announced its support for the province’s agricultural industry.
The province will put forward $16 million for a cost sharing program to help producers with costs of keeping back their cattle. This also includes $26 million from the federal government.
“Those feedlot producers who have finished cattle can set them aside. So, producers are able to put these cattle on a maintenance ration to not to get them too over-finished,” said Kelly Smith-Fraser, chair of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP). Feedlots are “having to keep these cattle on feed for days that they hadn't forecasted or budgeted for. You just can't turn off the tap to the cattle; you have to keep feeding them.”
Right now, Alberta has over 100,000 cattle ready to be processed. However, because of processing plant shutdowns due to COVID-19, a backlog has formed.
“The Cargill and JBS plants constitute close to 75 per cent of the processing capacity for all of Canada. So, when a plant as large as Cargill, for example, closes for two weeks that has a huge affect upon our industry,” Smith-Fraser told Farms.com.
While the funding will help with the most urgent need right now, more problems are arising.
“Our cow-calf producers are incredibly concerned and stressed because we can usually buy a calf price insurance insuring that our calves are worth a certain amount of dollars come this fall,” said Smith Fraser. “This year, we're looking at premiums that are worth just over ten times the amount they were last year.
“So, our producers haven't budgeted for this big bill of insurance premiums. But producers also recognize they can't afford to not buy the insurance because the forecast for these calves come the fall is pretty bleak.”
Smith-Fraser operates NuHaven Cattle Company at Pine Lake, Alta. and recently purchased calf price insurance.
“That bill stung. It really hurt and I'm going to keep watching to see if I can't buy a little bit more insurance hopefully a little bit cheaper down the road,” she said.
Producers are calling Smith-Fraser stressed about this unexpected expense.
“The level of stress is escalating in the country right now,” said Smith-Fraser.
While the ABP staff recognize the funding is a start, they know more is needed.
“We're rolling into week eight of the COVID-19 crisis and we hadn't seen any sort of support coming our way. So, it was great to finally see something,” said Smith-Fraser. But “what came out didn't even satisfy the needs of our set aside program request.”
If you are struggling, Smith-Fraser encourages you to contact your local MP or MLA.
“They need to understand what a dire situation producers are (facing). We can tell their story, but it means a lot more when it comes from the person who is experiencing the hurt. We're all in this together and, the more times that the government hears our story, the stronger the outcome will be,” said Smith-Fraser.
nickalbi/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo