Glacier FarmMedia Response to COVID-19

Beef sector mobilizes against supply disruptions

Keeping border open, meeting demand for beef are top priorities

Dennis Laycraft. (John Greig photo)

Teams of livestock and government officials are quickly creating plans and policies to keep the sector functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“Our primary objective obviously is to insure there is stable beef production and trade that can continue under the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dennis Laycraft said during an online town hall Friday.

“We will continue to work closely with the government of Canada and various departments there and our counterparts in the U.S. to maintain the integrity of food and trade between our two countries. Preparation is key for all of this as we manage our way through this.”

So far, things are working very well.

“I’m pleased to say that they are finding beef demand is particularly strong right now, as there is demand for meat, particularly in the retail sector,” he said.” A number of processors are processing six days a week to keep up to that demand.

“The Canadian food supply already had strong measures in place to ensure the safety of our food supply and health of our workers. They have implemented even stronger and more robust measures, given the COVID-19 context.”

The CCA is also working with federal officials and other farm groups on how business risk management programs can best support producers.

“The current government announcement has included increased credit for producers through Farm Credit Canada,” said Laycraft. (Details of how it will work are expected to be released Monday.)

“We’re also recommending that the government recognizes that Canada’s entire food supply is designated critical infrastructure under the emergency management framework.”

Government is also working out the details on how to get temporary foreign workers into the country despite border closures, said Janice Tranberg, president and CEO of the National Cattle Feeders Association.

“Under the proposal, we’re asking specifically that the prohibition of foreign travellers to Canada be amended to include an exemption for agri-food workers, who would otherwise qualify under the conditions of the temporary foreign worker program,” she said. “These workers would be subject to rigorous public health protocols.”

The CCA is also working with auction markets and the Canadian Beef Breeds Council to produce information for those hosting and attending bull and cattle sales. That and other pandemic-related info can be found on the association website.

— Alexis Kienlen reports for Alberta Farmer from Edmonton.

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