Funding gives hope to embattled beef industry

Darrell Cole
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COLLINGWOOD - After years of despair, Kurt Sherman feels something he hasn't felt in a long time - hope for an industry that's been bouncing from crisis to crisis over the last decade.
"It's a positive step for the reason. It's an important piece of the industry in that there's no need to have a cow-calve industry if you don't have a place to put them through," Sherman said. "Without it we're at the mercy of the rest of the country. This shows us there's a little bit of faith in that there is a future in the industry."
Sherman's comments come after the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency joined with the three Maritime provincial governments to inject $12 million into the struggling Atlantic Beef Products processing plant in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I.
A member of the Cumberland County Federation of Agriculture, Sherman said while the news is good not everyone is going to support it since there are beef producers who believe the money would be better spent on the producers.
"Overall I think it's a positive for the whole industry. It's pieces of the puzzle that fit together," he said. "If they're going to continue supporting the plant over there, they're going to continue to support the cow-calve end of it because you can't have a plant if you don't have an industry to support it."
Doug Bacon, president of the Atlantic Farmers Council, was in Charlottetown for the announcement Sunday and he thinks it gives farmers a measure of hope.
"It gives us a little bit of breathing room," he said. "What it does is give a future for a market for our cattle."
If the plant were allowed to close, Bacon said, it would force beef producers to send their animals to Quebec and Ontario for finishing. Coupled with rising grain prices, beef producers would not be able to survive.
"It's a good announcement and the best thing about it is you see the levels of government coming together and working to make this industry viable," Bacon said. "They realize the importance of agriculture. If they didn't we could lose it."
As good as the news is, though, Bacon said there's a lot more work to be done in other areas such as making government aware of the need to use locally-produced beef in provincial institutions.
"The next step is to lobby local chain stores to use local beef. There's also a responsibility for the consumer to be asking for local beef," Bacon said.

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Cumberland County Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Maritime, Borden-Carleton, Charlottetown Quebec Ontario

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