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Grass Routes News

In this issue

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  • Canadian Cattle Industry Virtual Town Hall
  • COVID-19 update: Letter for producers to connect with government officials
  • COVID-19 update from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • BCRC: Warm season crops and cool climates
  • In other news...

Please join us* for a Canadian Cattle Industry Virtual Town Hall event happening Thursday, April 23.

Dennis Laycraft, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Michael Young, President of Canada Beef will provide updates on the current state of the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marvin Slingerland, MNP Business Advisor will provide information on the disaster and emergency relief announced by the Government of Canada that is available to beef producers. Following their updates, they will take questions from the audience.

Register Now

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

*Attendance will be limited to the first 1,000 people. A recording will be available following the event for those unable to attend.

COVID-19 update 

Alberta Beef Producers has developed a letter for producers to send to their MLAs outlining the urgent need for changes to BRM programs. We strongly encourage producers to take the time to contact government officials. The Producer Letter to Government is available under latest news at
  • COVID-19 continues to negatively impact the North American beef industry through market volatility and interruptions to processing operations. A further significant blow came yesterday with the announcement that the Cargill plant in High River will be idling operations.
  • They have indicated that this is temporary but industry must be prepared for the stoppage to possibly continue for an extended period of time.
  • We recognize that employee health and safety is a top priority and that temporary shutdowns or capacity reductions may be required.
  • This is why Alberta Beef Producers supports the set of recommendations the Canadian Cattlemen's Association continues to advocate for regarding changes to Business Risk Management (BRM) programs. You can view these recommendations here.
  • A set-side program was suggested in the initial recommendations if the situation became critical. We are now in a critical situation and any further delay in implementing government policies to help producers manage through these difficult times will cripple the industry.
  • The Canadian Cattlemen's Association has run economic scenarios showing industry could see revenue losses upward of $500 million dollars by the end of June depending on how far market prices decline. Losses of this magnitude would be catastrophic for 60,000 beef operations and over 228,000 people in Canada who depend on our industry to provide for their families.
  • The Canadian beef industry has been working with federal and provincial stakeholders to develop and implement COVID-19 protocols to protect the health and safety of the plant’s employees while maintaining plant operational continuity.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has indicated that there are no food safety concerns.

COVID-19 update from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

General: The Prime Minister announced on April 15, 2020 that the Government of Canada (GoC) is expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. This new range will replace the previous range $50,000 and $1 million and will help address the challenges faced by small businesses to cover non-deferrable operating costs.

The Prime Minister also announced financial support for lower wage workers who are employed in essential services. This will be delivered by provinces/territories, and up to them on who is eligible. From GoC perspective: workers who make less than $2,500 a month, and are essential service workers, would be entitled to this wage supplement. 

New Funding announced for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA): The GoC announced $20 million for CFIA to strengthen food inspections and keep food safe. This will allow CFIA to build capacity, allow for overtime, invest in hiring and training to get more inspectors on board. CFIA is committed to maintaining critical services and putting plans in place to ensure critical services continued, which this funding will support. 

Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) and Labour: Regarding the recently announced $1,500 per TFW entering to assist with associated costs on quarantine. The GoC is working on the most efficient way to deliver these funds, but notes these employers must be following all quarantine rules. Funds may take a bit of time to make it to employers, as GoC needs to ensure rules were not violated by employers.

Changes to Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): people can earn up to $1,000 a month, while still getting CERB benefits to ensure workers have an incentive to take shifts where appropriate.

On technical workers entering the country: people in critical infrastructure are exempt from border closures, and in some circumstances, people coming into Canada for machinery related on food service are exempt from 14-day quarantine. Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is clarifying with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for further details.

International Agriculture Supply Chain 
In an effort to safeguard employee health while ensuring program and service delivery, the CFIA has reached a temporary agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) around export and import of animal products between the two countries. It takes effect immediately and runs until September 30, 2020. Under the agreement, the CFIA and the USDA have granted a six-month extension to allow approved facilities to continue to export certain animal products, by-products and pet foods.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has reduced hours at 27 low traffic border crossings, which came into effect April 15, 2020. AAFC will send details to industry stakeholders.

The Canadian embassy in Mexico is open, including work permit applications for critical industry such as agriculture.

Japan has received assurances this week that imports will not be disrupted, and movement of agriculture products are moving well. There is a change in demand as restaurants are not open.

Through the Canadian Embassy in China, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has heard signs of recovery and increase in capacity. On the food service side, recovery is at 50 per cent. Canada will still see disruptions in second and second tier cities in China, and logistics regarding fresh food (produce specifically). Anyone travelling into China needs to undergo testing and may have to follow quarantine procedures.

Warm season crops and cool climates

According to Statistics Canada, silage corn acreage was 26% higher in 2015-19 than in 2010-14. Most of this increase occurred in the Prairies. Achieving corn’s potential will depend on whether plant breeders can successfully adapt this warm season plant to Canada’s cooler climate.

Plants contain two kinds of carbohydrates. Non-structural carbohydrates are starches and sugars that help the plant store energy and are easily digested by livestock. Structural carbohydrates include the cellulose and hemicellulose fibers found in cell walls. Cellulose and hemicellulose, along with lignin, hold the leaves and stems together and help the plant stand up. Rumen microbes digest hemicellulose more easily than cellulose, but lignin is virtually indigestible. In a feed test, neutral detergent fiber (NDF) measures the amount of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. An indicator of “bulk”, high NDF levels limit animal intake. Acid detergent fiber (ADF) is the amount of less digestible cellulose and lignin (but not hemicellulose). Digestibility declines as NDF and ADF increase.

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In other news...

Increasing mental health support
The Government of Alberta is investing $21.4 million to improve access to phone and online supports with existing helplines, including the Addiction Helpline, the Mental Health Helpline, the Kids Help Phone and the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211).

Further spending will contribute to online resources, available to all Albertans, supporting people who may not be able to access face-to-face services, including those in self-isolation or those in rural locations.

  • Alberta’s Mental Health Helpline is available 24-7 toll-free and offers confidential support for mental health concerns: 1-877-303-2642.
  • Alberta’s Addiction Helpline is available 24-7 toll-free and offers confidential support for alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and problem gambling: 1-866-332-2322
  • The Kids Help Phone is available 24-7 and offers professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people by texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • The Crisis Text Line Alberta is a service available 24-7 that offers information, referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support for Albertans of all ages, by texting CONNECT to 741741.
  • Alberta 211 is a free helpline that connects Albertans to community and social services in their area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages.

Agriculture Job Connector
The Alberta government has launched an online resource to help strengthen the food supply chain and fill agriculture and agri-food jobs.

Keeping Alberta’s food supply chain safe and intact is a priority. The new Agriculture Jobs Connector website is a tool for Albertans to find essential agriculture work opportunities and for essential agriculture businesses to find workers.

Where to shop on farm in Alberta
Alberta Open Farm Days has created a searchable list of how to shop straight from a farm in Alberta. It also includes information for farmers who wish to be added to the list or have their information updated.

Read the list

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