Representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture will address beef processing capacity and other investment projects in meetings with provincial government officials today
By Jackie Clark
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) will bring forward beef processing capacity as one of the ag community’s infrastructure needs during discussions with provincial government officials today at Queen’s Park.
Representatives will discuss immediate actions and long-term solutions, as well as other economic development investments for rural Ontario.
“We have an overarching ask around infrastructure investment, (and beef processing) would certainly be infrastructure investment,” Keith Currie, president of the OFA, told Farms.com.
“It falls under the economic development piece that we’ve been pushing as well. By increasing capacity, you’re increasing jobs and increasing (the) value added in our products,” he said. “In the long term, we can look at ramping up processing in Eastern Canada and Ontario specifically, but that’s not going to solve the current situation.
“In Eastern Canada, we were already under pressure for lack of processing in the red meat sector and particularly in the beef sector,” Currie said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cancelled three Safe Food for Canadian licenses; Ryding-Regency Meat Packers Ltd., Canadian Select Meats Inc., and The Beef Boutique Ltd. are the effected companies, the agency announced in a Dec. 2 statement. The CFIA cancelled these licenses because it “had received false or misleading information from the license holders concerning E. coli lab results.”
The news was a blow to beef farmers in Ontario who are already dealing with a backlog caused by the suspension of those licenses in September.
“We’re getting to the stage where it’s almost animal welfare issue with the cattle,” Currie said.
“There’s still a need to get these animals processed. Losing (Ryding-Regency Meat Packers Ltd) really puts a bigger strain than was already there on the system, not to mention putting a strain on the farmers themselves. This is their livelihood. (Producers are) not able to send cattle to market or, when (farmers) do get the (cattle) to market, they're getting discounted because … they’re too heavy,” he explained.
“I know some of the other facilities are trying to pick up some of the slack, but it’s not that easy,” Currie added.
Other processors in the province are already at capacity and struggling to find labour to add more shifts to clear the backlog.
“We’ve been working with the Beef Farmers of Ontario and Canadian Cattlemen along with the respective ministries in Ontario and federally to try to find long-term solutions. (In the) immediate short-term, we’re trying to find ways to get these cattle that need to go to market now processed as soon as possible,” Currie said.
Aside from meat processing, the OFA representatives will address infrastructure investments that affect all parts of the Ontario ag industry.
“We’re still pushing for natural gas expansion, we’re still pushing for broadband expansion, and roads and bridges are our public transit,” Currie said. Those investments by the provincial government would facilitate the efficient exchange of goods and services in the rural parts of the province.
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