With the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) tuberculosis investigation ongoing and no clearly-defined ending in sight, concern is rising for the ranches involved. Currently, compensation only exists if animals need to be destroyed. At the Agriculture Committee meeting in Ottawa this week, it was made very clear that the status quo is going to leave the quarantined ranchers financially ruined.
Just one example of the scale of the dire financial situation was put into context best by rancher Brad Osadczuk who stated to legislators that the quarantine is costing him $92,000 per month to feed 400 head of cattle — cattle that should have been sold by now. This is without any snow really hitting the ground yet, and most of theses ranches do not have facilities in place to hold this number of cattle over the winter.
With only 36 ranches being impacted the lack of push for compensation has been very weak, leading to little action by the federal government. Producer groups, such as Alberta Beef Producers, have been pushing and asking for compensation to be extended to the impacted ranches to no avail.
Yesterday, federal minister of agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, reaffirmed that there is compensation for destroyed animals, and that he has instructed his staff to “rectify the situation.”
During the committee meeting, CFIA also fell under attack for their lack of speed in the investigation. One of the ranchers informed the committee that it took 10 days to get a phone call returned by the CFIA chief vet’s office. Since the beginning of the quarantine CFIA has been relatively quiet in their communications which has also led to many in the industry being concerned and confused.
With the quarantine, the timing of the tuberculosis incident has added complexity and the need for compensation. The ranches involved would typically sell their animals during the fall run at the auction mart or directly to feedyards. Ultimately there is not only quarantine costs but also the temporary loss in revenue because the cattle have to held.
This would be similar to a wheat field being quarantined for fusarium in September and the farmer cannot combine until March because CFIA will take that long to finalize their analysis. The farmer would not be able to sell the grain in the fall, the crop would deteriorate, and his normal course of business would be completely thrown into chaos if he relied on that cash flow.
The federal government needs to step up and provide financial assistance to these ranchers. They have cooperated, they are essentially |taking one for the team” to keep the livestock and food system safe, and pushing them into financial ruin is not something CFIA, the federal government, or Canadians should be proud of.