Thursday, October 2, 2014

Where did the beef-plant money go?

Manitoba’s beef farmers and politicians are seeking government answers over the failure of plans to open a slaughter plant in Winnipeg.

The plans were presented in the midst of an export ban that drove Canadian cull-cow prices to almost nothing.

The government spent checkoff money on the project.

“They purchased the property at 663 Marion Street for $1.2 million, they then spent $793,000 on plant redesign and renovations, then they spent $237,000 on demolition, because they decided they would build a new building,” said Blaine Pedersen, an opposition-party member of the legislature.

“So why did they spend almost $800,000 and then decide this building isn’t going to work and tear it down?… This is not prudent planning,” Pederson says.

He got his information via a freedom-of-information request, but farmers and reporters want more details, such as how much was lost in the recent sale of the property that was purchased for $1.2 million.

There are rumours that it has been sold for about half the purchase price.

The Manitoba venture is not the only one that sucked farmers’ money into bankruptcy.

Gencor in Ontario bought a packing plant in Kitchener and ran it on behalf of its dairy-farmer members until it went bankrupt. Gencor is an artificial insemination business. Farm Credit Canada was the largest creditor and ended up owning the plant.

Quebec farmers bought the Levinoff plant in Montreal and lost a small fortune of both their own and government money before it went bankrupt.

It was the re-opening of the U.S. border and renewed competition from buyers for U.S. cull-cow packing plants that drove the Canadian operations into bankruptcy.

Gencor complained that Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards on specified risk material (i.e. spinal chords and brains that could carry Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy-causing prions) made business more expensive for Canadian than U.S. packers.