Federal Tories, NDP press for TB quarantine compensation

Under pressure in the Commons Tuesday, the federal government has committed to “look into options” to compensate Alberta and Saskatchewan producers having to feed cattle they’re prohibited from selling.

Federal Conservative and NDP agriculture critics David Anderson and Ruth Ellen Brosseau separately took the government to task this week over the costs producers have to shoulder after their herds were quarantined over possible exposure to bovine tuberculosis (TB).

As of Wednesday, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, six cattle in a southeastern Alberta herd have so far been confirmed with bovine TB after a cow from the herd turned up TB-positive in September at a U.S. packing plant.

Including that index herd, CFIA said Wednesday, there are now “over 35 premises” under quarantine, mostly in Alberta with “fewer than five” in Saskatchewan.

Anderson, in the Commons Tuesday, said “lives and livelihoods are being destroyed” and producers “need funding to cover the additional feed costs caused by the CFIA’s mandatory quarantine.”

A compensation funding formula has long been available for livestock producers whose herds or flocks are ordered destroyed in outbreaks of reportable diseases such as TB or avian flu, but no such formula is in place to cover costs incurred due to quarantine alone.

Affected producers, Anderson said, also need the CFIA’s response centre to “openly and directly involve producers.”

Martin Shields, the Tory MP for the southern Alberta riding of Bow River, said in a release Tuesday that local veterinarians should also be called in to help CFIA with testing.

“Many ranchers cannot wait weeks for this process to be completed,” he said. “There are many qualified veterinarians in my riding that could be working under the supervision of CFIA staff.”

Anderson said the governing Liberals on Tuesday prevented MPs from summoning CFIA officials before the Commons standing committee on agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay responded in the Commons Tuesday that he has “asked my department to look into options for providing assistance to ranchers who are under quarantine.”

MacAulay said he has also asked CFIA to “expedite payments for affected herds where cattle have to be destroyed” and to ensure “additional staff to support investigations, including on-farm testing.”

In Tuesday’s committee hearing, Brosseau said, “we heard alarming testimony from beef producers whose herds are under quarantine and are losing thousands of dollars a day.

“It’s outrageous that the Liberals aren’t stepping in with financial help,” she said, alleging it “also appears that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency delayed launching its emergency measures.”

The Tories on Tuesday also called for an expansion of CFIA’s emergency response team to include representation from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada, trade officials, local cattlemen and industry representatives.

“A central command centre in southeastern Alberta would give ranchers an opportunity to communicate their needs and receive detailed, timely and accurate information,” Anderson said.

CFIA said last week its operations centre in Calgary has been “fully activated” since Oct. 24 and its emergency response plans are “scalable depending on the nature of the event.”

The bovine TB issue, Brosseau said Wednesday, “raises questions about our capacity as a country to deal with this type of crisis.” — AGCanada.com Network

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