Kitchener-Waterloo

Local farmers say Ottawa's aid package is good, but more money would be better

Ontario beef producers need more funding from the federal government to help deal with a major backlog of cattle, according to Jeff Chaffe, vice president of Beef Farmers of Ontario.

Beef Farmers of Ontario says the pandemic has made a bad situation worse when it comes to livestock backlog

Jeff Chaffe of Beef Farmers of Ontario has 200 to 300 cattle in his feedlot that he would normally be sending to get processed. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Ontario beef producers need more funding from the federal government to help deal with a major backlog of cattle, according to Jeff Chaffe, vice president of Beef Farmers of Ontario.

Chaffe, who owns a farm just north of Mitchell, says the federal government's multi-million dollar aid package is a step in the right direction, but more money and clarity around how the funding will be used is essential for beef producers to weather the storm of the pandemic.

"We're definitely going to need more [dollars]," said Chaffe.

Part of Ottawa's $252-million aid package is a $77-million fund for food processors to help businesses deal with the backlog of livestock.

That's one of Chaffe's main concerns right now — having 200 to 300 cattle in his feedlot that he would normally be sending to get processed. 

He says the pandemic has made a bad situation worse for Ontario beef producers.

"Our crisis started well before COVID-19 with the closure of the Ryding-Regency Meat Packers plant," said Chaffe.

"So there's been a backup of cattle waiting to go into the processing plant," said Chaffe. "It's a bottleneck between farmers and producers."

The cost to feed the extra cattle and uncertainty with processing is costing Chaffe $350 an animal, he said. But he said euthanizing the animals isn't something he's considered yet.

'We need help'

Bruce Sargent, a dairy farmer in Guelph, says he isn't facing the same pressures as his colleagues with livestock backlogs, but emphasizes farmers need a hand and continued funding. The federal government has said its aid package announced Tuesday is an initial investment.

"We need help," said Sargent.

As part of the aid package, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa plans to expand the Canadian Dairy Commission Act to allow it to buy and store more surplus dairy products to avoid more instances of milk dumping.

"We don't want to see product be wasted, so that absolutely makes sense," said Sargent.

Both Chaffe and Sargent are planting feed right now. They're uncertain how the next few months will look, but persist with an ember of optimism and sense of solidarity.

"All of agriculture needs to be looked after, not just some parts," Sargent.

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