The federal government should be following the province’s lead on funding to help ranchers affected by the mad cow crisis, says the head of the local ranching association.
Ottawa announced aid funding on the weekend equivalent to $192 per head, its 60 per cent share of an agreed federal-provincial aid package to farmers and ranchers impacted by the U.S. decision to close the border to Canadian beef.
The province on Monday announced it will provide up to $128 per cull animal in compensation, it’s 40 per cent share.
But the federal funding is so tied up in conditions that it is “pretty much worthless and in my view has done more harm than good,” said Mark Grafton, head of the Prince George Cattlemen’s Association.
As soon as the funding was announced, slaughterhouses dropped the price they are paying, said Grafton, effectively eliminating the benefit of the federal compensation package.
Federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief allowed that to happen because the federal assistance is tied to the sale of cattle to a slaughterhouse, said Grafton.
“I just can’t understand why Vanclief couldn’t take the message from the western provinces who are the most affected by this and allocate the funding in a reasonable manner. For some reason he was adamant that it be tied to slaughter and we just don’t have the ability to sell directly to slaughter in B.C.”
B.C. cattle ranchers overwhelmingly sell their stock through auction houses, he said. Individual cattle are difficult to track from ranch to market under such a system and will likely result in massive underpayments under the federal plan.
“We want to get funding into the hands of B.C. farmers as quickly as possible. That is why B.C. has chosen to deliver its portion of this program separately from the federal program,” said provincial Agriculture Minister John van Dongen in announcing the B.C. funding.
Under the provincial compensation plan, cattle producers have to register the number of animals in their breeding herd. They will then receive up to the maximum payout for their cull cattle directly from the province.
The B.C. plan isn’t perfect, and some of the details still need to be worked out, said Grafton. But it is a positive sign in an industry that has seen little good news in recent months.
“It’s just unfortunate that the federal government can’t hand over their funding for the provinces to allocate in the manner that the provinces feel is right,” said Grafton.
Cull cattle are cattle ready for slaughter that there may not be a market for. The U.S. and international border closures as a result of a single case in May of mad cow disease, or BSE, have caused a glut of cull cattle within Canadian borders.