The next Canadian federal election will take place on Monday, October 21, 2019. For producers, the next election is an opportunity for the interests of agriculture to reinforced by voting for your local candidate with the strongest background and most favourable policy positions in this area.
Approaching the upcoming election, Alberta Pork has previously covered the need for federal government support for international trade markets, along with the need for improved business risk management programs for producers. A third important issue, African Swine Fever preparedness, concerns the very existence of our industry.
In August 2018, China announced the first of more than 150 cases of ASF, sparking a global growth in the disease which had been mostly contained for the last decade. Today, ASF is found in at least a dozen countries in Asia and Europe, with cases reported right up to the borders of neighbouring countries, and instances of ASF-positive pork products seized at airports in Japan, Australia and the U.K., all within the past year. Most recently, in September 2019, the disease spread to South Korea and the Philippines—significant Canadian pork export markets. The threat of transmission is very real.
Preventing the spread of ASF includes the development of high-level strategies for managing the disease, surveillance at international borders, international cooperation, the eradication of Canada’s wild pig population and increased public awareness.
For countries where ASF is found, pork exports to many foreign markets are effectively suspended, except in the case where zoning agreements are established. In May and July 2019, Canada established zoning agreements with the U.S. and European Union. The practice of zoning ensures that, if a disease is found in one area of a country, the movement of animals, persons, feed and equipment to other parts of that country is restricted, to reduce the risk of disease transmission. It’s one way to reassure trading partners that everyone affected is making a strong effort to control the spread of disease.
Without zoning agreements and associated guarantees, borders close to product from known ASF source countries, even if the product is safe to consume and being sold at a discount. For Canada, that would mean an immediate 70 per cent loss of our market, which is export-based. This would result in a crippled $24 billion pork sector and equate to a $50 billion impact on the Canadian economy, along with significantly jeopardizing our trade reputation globally.
The Canadian Pork Council (CPC), to which Alberta Pork belongs, is working closely with the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to develop contingency plans to prevent the spread of ASF and emergency response plans in the unfortunate situation that prevention fails. This federal-provincial collaboration will require ongoing support.
In March 2019, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced more than $30 million in funding for the acquisition and training of detector dogs at Canadian airports, directly in response to the threat of ASF. The funding will help add 24 detector dog teams to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) over five years. In addition to detector dogs, stakeholders have been meeting with airlines to develop messaging and education around the risk of bringing ASF into Canada.
In addition to working within Canada’s borders, international efforts are being made to plan for scenarios that affect all of North America. In August 2019, Chief Veterinary Officers from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico met during the North American Animal Health Committee Meeting to begin discussing an ASF strategy. This group will meet again in October to further this strategy and organize ASF response drills.
On the wild pig front, Canada has been woefully slow to implement a strategy and allocate funds to manage the growing problem, though various small-scaled provincial programs are working to understand animal movements. A study published in May 2019 by University of Saskatchewan researchers Ryan Brook and Ruth Aschim evaluates potential national-scale strategies for managing our wild pig herds, which are increasing in size, number and spread. As a result, wild pigs continue to threaten crops, livestock and the environment while also posing a significant risk for ASF transmission, should the disease enter a herd here. In Europe, wild pigs are mostly responsible for spreading the disease in Russia, Bulgaria and Belgium.
For as much as the pork industry can do to protect itself from ASF, keeping Canada free of the disease depends largely on the public’s support. To help increase public awareness of the disease, CFIA, working with producer-group partners like Alberta Pork, has been actively creating awareness materials for distribution in hard-copy form, through its website and social media, along with evaluating the possibility of using other multimedia to reach out.
Alberta Pork hopes the next federal government will continue to develop its existing strategies and tactics, along with making available more funding, when necessary, to put in place new programs for enhanced ASF prevention.
For more information on party platforms, visit the websites of the Conservative Party of Canada, Green Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, New Democratic Party of Canada and People’s Party of Canada.
Keep an eye out for upcoming Alberta Pork articles and be sure to pay attention to news and social media leading up to the election.
If you would like more information on the 2019 Canadian federal election, contact Andrew Heck, Communication Programs Coordinator, Alberta Pork by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-491-3527, toll-free at 1-877-247-PORK (7675).