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Feds support domestic slaughter plants

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frenchie

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Feds support domestic slaughter plants
this document web posted: Wednesday March 16, 2005 20050317p23

By Sean Pratt
Saskatoon newsroom

With the U.S. border closed to live cattle exports for the foreseeable future, federal finance minister Ralph Goodale says it is time to accelerate the development of domestic slaughter capacity.

"We simply need more of that capacity on the Canadian side of the border and in Canadian hands," Goodale told delegates attending the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities annual convention.

During a question and answer session after his speech, Goodale was told that increasing slaughter capacity was not a viable option until Canada clears up its own internal trade barriers.

"We have provincial plants that can't export to other provinces. To me that doesn't make any common sense," said one of the 2,400 SARM delegates in attendance.

He told Goodale the only way meat can cross interprovincial borders is if it comes from a federally inspected plant and building one of those facilities is cost prohibitive.

Goodale agreed there is a need for discussions between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and provincial authorities to explore ways to facilitate interprovincial trade out of provincially inspected plants, but he was hesitant to fully endorse the idea.

"We've got to make sure that the health standards are being absolutely maintained because obviously we don't want any other issues arising that raise questions about health and safety," he told the SARM delegate.

Goodale wasn't the only visiting dignitary to mention slaughter capacity at the three-day convention. It is also high on the list of priorities for Saskatchewan's premier.

"If we didn't know it before surely we must know it now. We simply must reduce our reliance on live cattle exports to the U.S.," Lorne Calvert said.

If there is a silver lining in the BSE crisis, it is the recognition that Canada's slaughter and processing capacity is woefully inadequate, he added.

To that end, Saskatchewan has adopted a six-point strategy to reduce the province's dependence on other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States when it comes to finishing and processing meat products.

Ron Watson, councillor for the RM of Miry Creek, said expanding slaughter capacity sounds like a good idea but wondered what happens once the U.S. removes its border restrictions.

"We had Canadian packing plants at one time. What happened to them? Why did they go under or sell off?"

He worried that American firms will be able to slaughter cattle for a few cents cheaper than their Canadian counterparts.

The solution, he said, is companion legislation to ensure a guaranteed supply of animals for the Canadian plants.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Mark Wartman assured Watson the province has no interest in promoting a strategy that is only viable when the border is closed.

"Any investment in the slaughter industry must be sustainable
 
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