Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson faced questions about the possibility of a price assurance program for the beef industry while discussing his estimates during the spring legislature session.
A pricing assurance formula currently exists in western Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has been advocating for a similar system to be established across the country. O'Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson, who was agriculture minister in the Wade MacLauchlan government, told Thompson "I know that during my time as minister, we were starting to get it towards that discussions."
Thompson said there is an appetite on the part of beef producers to further explore the issue. He told the Liberal agriculture critic "I know you initiated it and I think that the tone has changed and they want that now. I’ve recently had conversation with ministers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and they are interested in working as a region to do a price analysis."
"We’ve sent a letter to the minister of agriculture in Alberta to see what their formula is and whether we can make a Maritime formula," he went on to say. "There’s a huge appetite for it and I hope in a year or two we can maybe introduce something or even a test pilot. "
Henderson also wanted to know whether the option of a forward contract had been discussed with Atlantic Beef Products. The former minister added "Really, the price assurance is kind of that – basically you apply a premium to guarantee a certain price for your livestock. Once again, it’s in discussions that I had with the beef plant was that might be an option that they could do because it also provides them some security. "
The agriculture and land minister said he had some discussions with the plant and "I think it could be something that the beef plant is involved in – an advanced payment or something like that for sure." He agreed with Henderson that a pricing formula would add security of supply for the plant as it searched new markets and continued to build its brand.
The minister told Opposition Agriculture and Land Critic Michele Beaton the issue was still in the discussion stages. He said the idea was first introduced during Henderson's tenure and "the uptake wasn’t maybe there, but the appetite for it has increased. There is a lot more talk about it now. "
He told Beaton the pricing formula could be one way to build the beef herd throughout the region, which is a goal of both industry and the three Maritime governments. He noted "we are starting a pilot project on beef, on dairy, which is going to possibly bring 3,500 more animals into our system that will eventually go through the beef plant. It might be a test run on our insurance payment program, if we pay on – I think we’re going to look at paying on a gradual prepayment on stages of the animal and so I’m pretty excited about it and it should give more assurances to the beef industry. "