by SUSAN MANN
There’s a lot of optimism but no hard cash – yet – to continue the development of Canada’s farm animal treatment codes.
“We’re hopeful approvals are going to be coming soon,” says Jackie Wepruk, general manager of the National Farm Animal Care Council of applications for federal funding to establish the codes, which outline a national standard for the handling and care of farm animals ranging from pigs and cattle to poultry. She notes the federal government has been very supportive of the council’s work and the applications are working their way through the assessment process.
Since 2010, the council has completed six code updates (mink, fox, equine, sheep, beef cattle and – just being completed now – pigs) and begun two others. One of the new codes addresses chicken, turkey and hatching eggs. The other addresses egg layers.
Wepruk says progress to date exceeds the targets set shortly after the organization obtained project-based funding through the government’s AgriFlexibility fund in 2009. Back then, the goal had been to complete five codes and initiate three more.
That funding wraps up at the end of this month.
Wepruk explains the council doesn’t have sustained, long-term funding for code development in Canada. “We do the work we do through project-based funding and one of the challenges for our code process is this dependence on project-based funding so it does create rigid start and end dates for code development.”
The funding has also supported “a breadth of stakeholder participation as well on all the codes,” she says, noting farm commodity and other groups provide people to help work on the codes. “One of the reasons why we’re on track to finish six codes is because of that human resource commitment.”
On average, the code committees were made up of 15 people, including four to five farmers, provincial government staff, processors, veterinarians, retail and foodservice group representatives, and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, she says.
The cost of updating a code varies quite a bit, she says. The recently completed codes cost an average of about $300,000 each to do. “A lot of that has to with the fact that our codes have not been updated for quite some time and there was a lot of work to be done to get everyone on to the same page.”
The council has submitted two project proposals to Growing Forward 2, the national agricultural policy framework, under the AgriAssurance program. One of the proposals would provide funding to finish the two poultry codes and “would also then prioritize which codes need to be updated next,” Wepruk says. The second proposal is for funding to start work on the codes that were prioritized for updating as part of the first proposal. The two applications together are for more than $2 million in funding.
Wepruk did not know precisely when the government would notify the council on the proposals’ outcome but noted that they had not heard of anything holding up the assessment process. BF