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Martin Shields discusses Bovine TB

By Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

Martin Shields, Bow River MP

Martin Shields, Bow River MP

On February 9, during Question Period, Bow River MP Martin Shields took the opportunity to raise an issue which has impacted many producers in Alberta, Bovine Tuberculosis and compensation for the elimination of infected animals.

 

Shields spoke about the impact of the situation on Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“This very serious situation has created unending stress and harm in the cattle industry. These are generational families on generational ranches that have raised some of the best beef in the world, generational herds. These are not herds that have just popped up, but have been there hereditarily and were developed decade after decade,” he said.

“When one animal is identified with bovine TB, immediately CFIA(Canadian Food Inspection Agency) becomes involved, as its goal is to keep Canada TB free, so we have that reputation in the international market of trading the best beef in the world,” said Shields.

But he explained that in Alberta there are large ranches with community pastures and many animals from different ranches use them.

“When 18 different family businesses became quarantined, this meant a lot of stress on their neighbours as testing would have to occur. As the testing occurred, there were reactors, which meant there were orders for slaughtering,” said Shields.

He explained that for some families, there was no way to sell the animals, just a time to wait for the animals to be slaughtered. During that time producers still needed to feed and maintain their herds.

“Eventually thousands of bulls, cows and calves were slaughtered. It left these family businesses in a very rough place,” said Shields.

“CFIA had limited resources on the ground to work with this, not realizing the size of this catastrophe for these families. Over time, more staff was allocated to work with the testing. Thousands of animals had to be tested. As they worked through this, local ranchers developed better relationships with these people, but there were problems as these animals were destroyed and because of an arranged payment. However, there is only a one year tax deferral, and these herds cannot be replaced. We cannot go to Walmart and get a new herd,” said Shields.

“The families need five years of tax deferrals to start the process of rebuilding herds with the kind of quality for which they have the reputation. As we rebuild this industry in this part of our country and as we rebuild the best beef in the world, we need a simple change,” said Shields.

“The Finance Department can make a simple change so these farms will survive and get back in the business in a productive manner,” he said.

Shields debated the issue with Jean-Claude Poissant, parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“At the end of September 2016, we were notified that a Canadian cow tested positive for bovine tuberculosis when it was slaughtered in the United States. The cow was from Alberta,” said Poissant.

He outlined some of the measures the federal government has put in place to assist producers in Alberta.

“In Canada, bovine TB is a reportable disease and subject to a national mandatory eradication program that has been in place since 1923. It is thought to be officially eradicated in Canada today, but isolated cases can still crop up,” he explained.

“The government knows that bovine TB is a great hardship for the affected ranchers. We understand the challenges the ranchers might face if their facilities and herds are placed in quarantine,” Poissant said.

“Whenever a reportable disease is suspected or confirmed, the objective is to minimize the impact on our producers while respecting Canada’s domestic and international obligations to take adequate and precautionary control measures. These measures are essential to protecting the health of Canadian livestock,” he said.

“The movement of all animals affected is restricted. We then proceed with animal testing, humane slaughter, and carcass disposal if necessary.”

“CFIA has completed the slaughter of all adult animals in the infected herd. Furthermore, animals in the infected herd were sent to the slaughterhouse where they underwent a post-mortem to ascertain the absence of lesions consistent with bovine tuberculosis,” he said.

“ We understand the financial pressures that can be associated with an animal disease outbreak for producers, and we are trying to alleviate this burden. The CFIA will issue a compensation payment for any animal that must be slaughtered because of bovine tuberculosis. In mid-December 2016, the CFIA began issuing payments, and as of February 8, nearly $16 million had been paid in compensation,” said Poissant.

He explained that the CFIA is working to lift quarantines as soon as the absence of bovine TB is confirmed.

Poissant noted that in 2016, the government announced producers facing financial hardship due to bovine TB will be eligible for assistance under the Agri-Recovery Framework and as of February 3, $3.1 million has been paid out.

Shields explained that the bovine TB issue is ongoing and challenging. He also highlighted the issue of chronic wasting disease in elk in the region, which is said was also a threat to the cattle industry. The animals have mingled with cattle herds.

“They are destroying pastures and fences, and other situations are occurring. That needs to be taken care of as well,” said Shields.