Conservative members on the House of Commons agricultural committee are being accused of obstruction in blocking a recommendation for financial aid to Canada’s cattle processors.
In a December 11 letter to the beef industry, opposition committee members accused Tory members of repeatedly preventing a vote on a motion to recommend subsidizing the slaughter of older cattle.
A coalition of industry packers, processors and producers last month called for a $24 million annual federal program to offset the higher costs of specified risk material (SRM) removal by beef plants in Canada. That works out to $31.70 a head.
The group made the appeal Nov. 2 in a presentation to the agriculture committee.
The letter, signed by Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois committee members, said a committee motion calls for the government to implement an immediate program for the industry to cover the $31.50.
The motion was tabled Nov. 19 and at five subsequent committee meetings. But the Conservatives each time used delaying tactics to keep it from coming to a vote, the letter said.
The House of Commons rose for the Christmas break last week and the chance to bring the recommendation to the House before then is now gone, it said.
“If it were not for the total inflexibility of the Conservative members, this motion would have been tabled in the House of Commons before parliamentary activities were suspended for the Christmas break in order to put pressure on the government,” the letter read.
The industry says stringent regulations on SRM removal in Canada make packers less competitive against their counterparts in the United States, where the rules require the removal of less material.
SRM removal is required as a BSE control on cattle older than 30 months (OTM).
Without the subsidy, packers who normally accept OTM cattle may refuse them. That leaves the options of either shipping them to the U. S. for slaughter, thus losing business here, or looking for alternate slaughter space in Canada, according to the industry.
Opposition committee members said they see the problem but their hands are tied.
“Like you, we, the opposition members on the committee, see that the Conservative government has done absolutely nothing to bridge the gulf that Canada’s regulations have created between the Canadian and American standards,” the letter said.
Brad Wildeman, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president, said all sides realize the issue is serious but the government seems unwilling to pay for it.
Wildeman said slaughter capacity for OTM cattle in Canada is already limited and will get worse at this rate.
Provincially inspected slaughter plants are an alternative but their capacity is also limited, said Wildeman.
“Some of the older cows will just have to be euthanized on the farm.” [email protected]