Time is running out for area livestock producers to qualify for funding

December 31 deadline
With the December 31 deadline just weeks away, area livestock producers need to act quickly to qualify for their second installment of provincial funding set to hit the mail starting in late January.

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December 31 deadline

With the December 31 deadline just weeks away, area livestock producers need to act quickly to qualify for their second installment of provincial funding set to hit the mail starting in late January.

The money – part of a $300 million transition fund called the Alberta Farm Recovery Plan II (AFRP II) – will help beef, hog and other livestock producers across Alberta, whose industries have been battered by a perfect storm of low livestock prices, high input costs, and until recently, a strong Canadian dollar.

Second Round of AFRP II cheques

“We want to make sure all livestock producers are aware of the eligibility requirements that must be met by Dec.31 to qualify for the funding – so they don’t miss out,” says Vicki Chapman, a Customer Service Manager with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), the provincial Crown corporation administering the payments on behalf of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). The payments will be the second and final batch of cheques issued under AFRP II, since the program was announced in June.

“The requirements under AFRP II are all about building a strong and reliable traceability system for Alberta livestock. Traceability is vital to keeping our export markets open, accessing new markets, and putting our livestock industry on more competitive footing,” explains Jeff Kucharski, CEO of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, created by Alberta Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld this summer to oversee the province’s Livestock and Meat Strategy. “It helps us assure Canadians and international customers that our meat is safe and of high quality.”

Markets Demand Traceability

“Because of BSE, key markets such as China, Japan, and Korea, are demanding our beef products are age verified, and come from livestock under 30 months of age, in many cases. They also tell us traceability – being able to track the movement of livestock from birth – is a necessity to win the confidence of their consumers. The more we can satisfy these demands, the more likely we can get into these markets – many of which pay premiums,” says Kucharski. 

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the funding, all Alberta livestock producers must complete a new updated Premise Identification (PID) form, providing ARD with the location of their home quarter, the type of operation and animals they own, and their maximum livestock capacity.

Beef producers must verify the age of all calves born in 2008 by recording each animal’s ear tag number and the dates that calving started and ended on the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s (CCIA) online database. Feedlot owners with more than 5,000 animals must sign a declaration agreeing to track the movement of live cattle in and out of their feedlots starting Jan. 1, 2009.

“Knowing the age, Premise ID, and movement of animals will help industry and government manage any future disease outbreak quickly, and keep commerce moving,” says Kucharski.

“Relatively Easy” to comply

Beef producer Ed Rice says complying with the AFRP II funding requirements has been relatively easy. “Age verifying calves is just part of our routine; we’ve been able to do it without much trouble. Premise ID is quite simple, too,” he says, adding that building a traceability system will likely strengthen the industry in the long run. “It will allow packers to export more beef, and that’s good for everyone.”

Rice and his brother run an 80-head cow-calf operation, along with a feedlot and backgrounding business near Lacombe. “We haven’t been hit as hard as some farmers, but this money is a welcome thing in our industry. Cattle prices are still very similar to what we were getting during BSE. And now, input costs have gone way up. Every little bit helps.”

Chapman says any questions about how to age verify cattle, or how to fill out the PID forms can be answered by calling 310-FARM, the provincial government’s Ag-Info Centre. “They can put you in touch with more than 60 ARD and CCIA employees who are out there helping producers age verify, giving them free access to electronic ear tag readers, and inputting the data onto computers for them.”

Statement of Compliance

Once producers have met all the eligibility requirements, they must sign a Statement of Compliance form verifying they’ve done so. While the deadline to meet the funding requirements is Dec. 31, producers have until Jan. 31 to send in their Statements of Compliance, explains Chapman. These forms have been mailed to producers, and are available at www.afsc.ca

Many farmers have finished meeting all the requirements, but many more are still phoning the AFSC Call Centre wondering whether they are eligible to receive the second AFRP II cheque, says Chapman. “The payments are based on 2006 livestock inventory, so only producers who owned animals that year are eligible,” she explains. “Producers who no longer own livestock, but did in 2006, still need to complete a new PID form.”

Farmers must also have qualified for the first AFRP II payment announced in June to be eligible for this second one. “If you didn’t apply for the first payment, application forms are available on our website at www.afsc.ca or through our Call Centre at 1-877-744-7900,” says Chapman.