The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has been lobbying the federal government very hard on a version of the past BSE-era set aside program. The proposal does not have all producers in the feedyard and ranching community onside with the idea, and one of the groups that has spoken out against the set aside proposal is the Western Stock Growers Association.
In a press release, WSGA president Callum Sears says that “Cow-calf producers want the response from industry and government to be simple, flexible, and address the problem, not just kick it down the road. It cannot be overly complex and ripe for exploitation.”
One of the major concerns within producer circles is the chain reaction a set aside would create for cattle yet to be killed going forward. The WSGA estimates that the backlog could take over a year to get the industry current post COVID-19 if cattle are set aside.
WSGA firmly believes that right now the area of greatest focus should be to maximize cattle slaughter and keep the supply chain running. Both government and industry’s highest priorities should be to develop systems to minimize COVID-19 transmission to employees in food processing facilities, testing to ensure that it does not enter those facilities, and incentify workers to continue their essential service to assure food safety and food sovereignty, as well as the safety of their fellow workers.
Fort Macleod rancher and past WSGA president Bill Newton says, “The live cattle supply chain is no different than the slaughter chain at Cargill, you put something in the front, it’s going to come out of the back. We are filling hook space for 2021 on the ranch, we could slow that chain down a little bit but really we cannot stop it, not turning the bulls out would be a terrible idea because then we are talking about 2022.”
CCA believes that set aside is one of the tools that the industry needs to get to the other side of this crisis. “We learned many lessons during the hard years of BSE, and it is time to implement the policies that previously helped us weather the storm,” says Bob Lowe, President of the CCA, in a statement issued April 13.
A spokesperson of the Minster of Agriculture and Agri-Food says that there is no timeline for a decision on the set aside program.