Meat producers react to government funding

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The Small Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA) is responding to the new funding announced by the Province of British Columbia, with accessibility to new funds and program administrative costs being their top concerns.

The association, made up of farmers and ranchers who raise meat across British Columbia, seeks to support its membership base by providing government feedback on the effectiveness and accessibility of provincial and federal programs related to the breeding, processing and sale of meat. Responding to the new Agricultural Severe Weather Preparedness Program, which provides a total of $1.5 million in funding available to BC farmers for wildfire and flood preparedness efforts, SSMPA representatives said they were concerned that the program did not go far enough in terms of funding or accessibility.

“I’m not sure the funding is enough, and I have some concerns about the administrative cost of it, on both sides. There is always a lot of money for consultants, which comes from the budget and which would be used to move things forward. I think that’s an important thing to consider,” said Julia Smith, project manager for SSMPA.

“It costs something to apply for these things. It is especially at this time of year when people who could benefit from this funding do not have time to apply for it. I spoke with the program and there will be another round of funding later this year, so that’s good news.

The application period for the program’s current funding round closes August 15, but future rounds will take place in the fall. Smith says many of the producers who would benefit from this new provincial funding are busy haymaking, moving livestock and tending to their crops during the extreme heat of the first season. She hopes that the organization’s comments will be well received; feedback that will be collected from their members applying or inquiring about the program.

In the past, funding and support was made available through government and non-profit channels to enable busy agricultural producers to apply for vital funding such as the Agriculture Severe Weather Preparedness Program. SSMPA, having recently updated its guidance documents, is interested in providing these services again.

“Previously, support was in place to help producers apply for this type of funding. Nobody has time to apply, it’s hard. As a company, we would love to be able to offer this service to our members and support them through these types of applications,” added Smith.

“It’s on our list for our strategic plan, which we just updated. We would save money. Rather than having someone with shoes on the mat, we need people with boots on the floor.

Smith and the SSMPA hope to see more dollars going directly to producers rather than administrative costs. Going forward, they will monitor the effectiveness and accessibility of this and other government programs, while continuing to focus on their primary goal of advocating for small-scale producers working outside the conventional industrial system.

The SSMPA Community Slaughterhouse Project, which received $1 million in funding earlier this year, is also progressing. The organization has received a letter of interest from the Coldwater Indian Band and is exploring the possibility of developing the new public cutting and packaging facility at the Comstock Industrial Park, 10 kilometers south of Merritt on Coldwater Road. The SSMPA has requested additional government funding of $500,000, with Smith adding that she is “cautiously optimistic” about their chances of success.

For more information about the Small Scale Meat Producers Association, including membership applications and updates, visit www.smallscalemeat.ca.

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