May 21, 2020
Memo to: Round Table / Table Ronde (AAFC/AAC)
AAFC – COVID-19 – Industry-Government Working Group
From: Katie Ward, NFU President
Re: Emergency Processing Fund
At Minister Bibeau’s press conference on May 5th, the NFU was pleased to hear that the $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund would be allocated to adapting and modernizing under-capacity or closed meat processing plants. In response to a journalist’s question the Minister said the eligibility criteria had not yet been finalized, but the idea is to increase processing capacity in Canada while protecting workers, to deal with food security and improve control over meat processing capacity. She stated that the government is looking for results for food processing capacity to serve the domestic market. Finally, that in cost-sharing with the provinces, the share for federal government will be higher for small plants, and lower for big plants.
We would like to follow up by asking for an update on discussions regarding eligibility criteria and details of any decisions made so far.
The NFU is very interested in developing abattoir capacity and meat processing capacity in smaller plants across the country in order to improve food security for Canadians, serve local and regional markets, provide timely and economical access to facilities for farmers allowing them to meet the increased demand from Canadian consumers, and to reduce livestock transportation costs and distances for economic and animal welfare reasons. NFU livestock producers have identified the following funding priorities for strengthening and expanding smaller scale processing capacity across Canada:
- Support for transition to new operators, to promote continuity of service when facilities are sold or re-opened, such as
- Assistance upgrading and refurbishing facilities to meet current needs
- Assistance with navigating food safety regulations
- Bursaries to support staff training
- Expedite re-licensing so that closed facilities can re-open quickly. Consider creating an emergency licensing regime for low-risk operations that serve small local markets.
- Hire and train more provincial and federal inspectors to maximize capacity of smaller plants.
- Support for more butchers – such as training, assistance for retired butchers to return to work.
- Provide assistance for compliance with costly regulatory requirements such as SRM disposal.
We would also reiterate that the $77M fund should be allocated only to small and medium enterprises serving the domestic markets. JBS and Cargill are some of the wealthiest corporations in the world and should not be subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer.
We look forward to more details and good news about expanding our local and regional processing capacity to serve Canada livestock producers from coast to coast.
Katie Ward, NFU President