Looking to modernize the livestock transportation regulatory regime, the federal government announced some $184,000 in funding for the Canadian Animal Health Coalition this week.
Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht and Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong made the announcement Wednesday morning at the Ontario Livestock Exchange in St. Jacobs.
The funding will help the CAWC “develop an online training and verification system based on the existing Canadian Livestock Transport Certification program that will simplify, standardize and provide an opportunity for truckers, shippers and receivers to more easily access the training necessary to improve handling practices,” the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada media release stated.
Making it easier for drivers to keep up with best practices is a step in the right direction for producers and consumers, Albrecht said.
“I think the big thing is the animal welfare piece. It’s about ensuring when a cow or an animal leaves the farm gate, it arrives at its destination as healthy as when it left.”
“The most important thing is that it will strengthen consumer confidence both here in Canada and abroad. Over the last couple of decades, a couple of trends have taken place. First of all, consumers are increasingly educated about their food stuffs and they want to know exactly how they were transported and handled across the supply-chain. And so a program like this will strengthen certification, training and standards for the transportation of livestock and poultry from the farm gate to the processing plant.”
And changes in the food sectors business environment have made the issue even more important, Chong added.
“Animals are increasingly shipped longer distances for processing because there are fewer processing plants as facilities have amalgamated and become larger. There aren’t as many locally based as there once was, and so when animals are transported longer distances there is an increasing need for higher standards of transport. And finally, Canadian farmers, especially in the livestock sector, to export to new foreign markets where the demand for meats is growing because of the growing middle class. These foreign markets demand very high standards across the supply-chain for the production of these products and support for this certification and training program is just one part of increasing the standards to world class levels to make sure that those markets remain open for our farmers.”
For its part, the CAHC is looking forward to the new website and the more streamlined approach it will bring to the training and certification process.
“Currently the program is delivered in an in-classroom setting,” the organization’s executive director Mark Beaven said. “Because of lives and busy schedules, sometimes that’s a little more difficult because of the locations; we’re right across the country. So having a very interactive and comprehensive online program to allow many more drivers to get certified and take the program and improve their handling and knowledge of all aspects of transporting livestock.”
It’s not just going to allow drivers to read information or watch videos, Beaven notes, rather, it will include webinars and interactive classes along with mandatory testing.
He likened the program to a recent initiative by minor hockey associations across the province.
“We see online training increasing all the time. Here in Ontario for example, if you have a child in minor hockey now, you have to take the respect in sports course. And it was a very interactive and detailed program that you couldn’t bypass. We see this as a similar thing where you’re going to actually have to go through and follow the program and it’s just going to allow for a lot more availability and a lot more options for people to do it at their own pace.”
The money for the program will come from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriMarketing Program, which is a five-year, up to $341 million initiative under the Growing Forward 2 policy framework.