Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta and the federal government will cost share a $42-million program to help farmers and ranchers deal with a backlog of cattle waiting to be processed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The livestock industry both here in Alberta and across Canada have been affected by the impaired operations of many meat-packing and food-processing plants,” Kenney said Thursday. “Critical action must be taken.”
He said Alberta will contribute $17 million and Ottawa is expected to fund the balance under an existing cost-shared program.
The money will be used to subsidize producers to hold onto and feed cattle for up to nine weeks to match reduced demand and processing capacity.
Kelly Smith-Fraser, chair of Alberta Beef Producers, said the announcement came as a “really big relief.”
“Our producers have been really concerned what their future holds,” she said. “So this was incredibly relieving to hear that we are at least on the radar and we should be seeing some help coming.”
Alberta is dealing with outbreaks at three beef-processing facilities, which have forced temporary shutdowns and reduced production.
“The plants, working with Alberta Health Services, have implemented dozens of new screening and containment procedures and protocols,” Kenney said.
The Opposition NDP has been calling for the United Conservative government to hold a public inquiry into the outbreak at the Cargill plant near High River, citing reports that employees there were coerced into returning to work.