Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is René Roy. I am a pork producer from the Beauce region in Quebec and the 2nd Vice-Chair of the Canadian Pork Council.
Thank you very much for inviting me today. I would also like to thank the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which has shown leadership by agreeing to look into the issue of African swine fever.
African swine fever, or ASF, does not pose a problem in terms of food safety.
However, the virus does kill pigs and could destroy a a growing and globally competitive industry valued at $24 billion.
The pork industry generates more than 100,000 jobs both in rural municipalities and urban centres. The risk of losing their operations constitutes a very serious threat to the mental health of a good number of pork producers.
Canada exports 70% of its production, either as live pigs or pork products.
An outbreak of ASF would immediately close our export markets and, unless we can react quickly, lead to the decline of the pork industry. Canada's experience with bovine spongiform encephalopathy gives us a clear indication of what could happen. However, the situation in the pork sector would be even worse.
This disease is present in Africa, Europe and Russia and is currently spreading across China and Southeast Asia. The fact that both personal travel abroad and international trade between Canada and these regions is growing, and that the viral load is quickly increasing, has boosted the risk of ASF being introduced in North America.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Canada has a well-established and rigorous animal health monitoring system. Our producers know how to raise healthy pigs and have the support of various types of animal health experts, such as internationally renowned veterinarians and researchers. This system is also supported by a vast network of animal health laboratories and rigorous regulations, both at the federal and provincial levels.
Producers know they have a critical role. They have invested heavily in traceability, biosecurity, extension and research. They collaborate with their colleagues across Canada and work closely with their local government. They are also active at the international level.
ln the case of ASF, producers are seeing the benefits of a close working relationship with officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Border Services Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Global Affairs Canada. Together, we have taken some very significant steps to help prevent and prepare for ASF.
Pork organizations have developed a series of products highlighting the potential impact of the disease and the necessity of strengthened on-farm biosecurity. Producers are funding a Canadian Food Inspection Agency research project to develop faster diagnostic tests for ASF. The CBSA has strengthened its vigilance at the border and committed an additional $30 million to increase the number of detector dog teams.
The CFIA has implemented new control measures to mitigate the risk associated with imports of potentially contaminated feed grain. Representatives of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Global Affairs Canada and industry are working closely to secure zoning recognition agreements with key trading partners. These bilateral agreements are critical to mitigating the impact of a disease outbreak in Canada.
Perhaps more importantly, the commitment to co-operate has taken hold. Federal and provincial governments, producers and processors are all stepping up to address the challenge. The four cornerstones of an effective emergency management plan are prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Recognizing that investing heavily in preparedness and planning is the most efficient, cost-effective use of resources, we have focused our effort in these areas. Within this space, there remains much work to be done.
The pork sector believes there are four key priorities. The risk posed by wild pigs must be addressed. This invasive species must be eradicated. Biosecurity measures, both on farm and at the border, must be enhanced to prevent disease entry. Our traceability, biosecurity and surveillance systems must be strengthened to ensure they support rapid zoning and the reopening of our export market. The challenges of communicating with a wide range of differing stakeholders both before and during an outbreak must be addressed.
To date our response has simply been to roll up our sleeves and work harder with the resources at hand. Less important tasks are being pushed aside. Very few new resources, apart from detector dogs, have been brought to the battle. While this has yielded good results over the short term, it is not sustainable.
At its May 8, 2019 meeting, the industry members of the Pork Value Chain Roundtable recommended that a letter be sent to Minister Bibeau asking her to take immediate action to address the need for more resources, specifically to ask departmental officials to work with the pork sector to develop a funding proposal under the Canadian agricultural partnership program to address the priority issues and establish the pork promotion and research agency as a new source of long-term, private-sector funding.
The creation of the pork promotion and research agency has been a long-standing request of the Canadian pork producers. Check-off agencies are established under the authority of the Farm Products Agencies Act, which falls within the mandate of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food. A beef check-off agency was incorporated in 2002 and similar organizations exist within the United States.
In 2016, the Farm Products Council of Canada, which administers the act, recommended that the Government of Canada establish a pork promotion agency. Unfortunately, no action has been taken to date, and access to an estimated $1 million in additional private-sector funds has been denied.
Much has been accomplished and much remains to be done. Canada can prevent and prepare for ASF. Armed with additional resources, we will protect the sector and ensure its continuity to provide Canadians with a readily available source of high-quality protein and remain an important contributor to the Canadian economy.
I thank you for your attention. I, along with the Canadian Pork Council animal health team, would be pleased to address your questions.