The beef industry’s largest producer organizations say they are “seriously concerned” about the border blockade near Coutts, Alta., as it ends its sixth day.
The Canadian Cattlemen Association, the Alberta Beef Producers and the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association are all calling for a “speedy resolution” to the situation, according to the joint statement released this morning.
ABP co-chair Jason Hale said imports and exports of live cattle as well as canned beef to the south and critical animal feed supplies to the north have been affected by the blockade.
Beef processing at Alberta’s Cargill and JBS plants, which are responsible for about two-thirds of the country’s beef products, will be behind schedule, Hale said.
“When you think about the number of cattle in our two main packing plants in Alberta, that’s a lot of cattle processed every day.
The impact of this lockdown will ripple through the beef producer chain and drive up costs, he said.
“It just creates a backlog at the feedlots, the finishing lots. This adds feeding days.
The Western Producer asked for comment on the processing situation of Cargill and JBS but did not receive a response.
Additional costs will eventually trickle down to cow-calf producers, Hale said.
“Historically, cost increases are felt all along the production chain.”
Work is underway to try to find other Alberta ports that can be used, but this will require negotiations between the US and Canadian governments.
The lack of grain to feed livestock is now raising the level of concern for animal welfare issues in Alberta.
“I know some feedlots are approaching a time when they will need more feed,” Hale said, adding that he can’t comment specifically on when some operations might run out.
Hale said people have the right to protest in a democracy.
“But a blockade is different from a protest,” he added.
“We understand their concerns, their issues as to why they are doing this, but our focus is on our producers and the beef industry in Alberta and the rest of Western Canada.”
John Barlow, federal Conservative agriculture critic, echoed that sentiment, saying the blockade must be lifted.
“These are critical infrastructure trade corridors. We have to move the products, whether it’s animal feed or live animals,” he said. “These things are imperative and in many cases perishable.”
Additionally, the additional fuel and labor costs required to bypass Coutts will eventually be passed on to consumers.
Barlow said that if protesters continue the blockade, “and if you cause economic damage and animal health issues, you’re going to erode that public support.”
The economic impact is already being felt in neighboring Lethbridge, where the chief executive of the city’s economic development agency, Trevor Lewington, said the blockade is costing the city $3 million a day.
The comments came during a midday news conference hosted by the city’s NDP MP Shannon Phillips, who again called on the provincial government to seek an injunction against the protesters and provide aid to the agricultural sector. to cover uninsurable losses.
Hale said producer organizations were not asking for such help “at this time.”
As of 5 p.m. MST, 511Alberta reports that the highway leading to the Coutts border is closed, while the Montana Department of Transportation lifted its border closure notice this afternoon.
Traffic cameras on both sides of the border show little to no border traffic.
No communication from the Alberta government on the situation has been released in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, additional supplies and protesters poured into southern Alberta today to support the blockade as it appears the provincial government and the RCMP have lost control of the situation.
The protest began as a slow-moving operation Saturday by those opposing pandemic health restrictions, which eventually turned into an impromptu blockade in the afternoon.
It appears to be gaining supporters by the hour and settling in for the long haul if the province doesn’t respond to protesters’ demands to drop pandemic-related health restrictions.
These restrictions were imposed to address the increase in deaths and hospitalizations for people with COVID-19 and to help relieve Alberta’s overwhelmed health care system.
Canada’s Indigenous community, which has noted in various statements that the response to border blockers is far different from what they encountered during their protests.