The United States is Canada’s largest export destination for live cattle and beef. According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canada exports these agricultural products to 62 countries, but depends on the United States for 72% of them.
Canada is facing blockages and protests over COVID-19 restrictions at the Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass Montana border. These blockages hinder the export and import of meat and grain across the border, which could harm the industry economically.
Shaun Haney, founder and publisher of Real Agriculture in Alberta, says the protests are impacting the Canadian and American beef industries.
“It’s been pretty divisive here this week in southern Alberta. You know, cross-border trade between Canada and the United States is absolutely essential for the Canadian economy, particularly for the beef industry. It’s sort of the main thoroughfare for live cattle leaving southern Alberta to go to Hyrum, Utah,” Haney said.
Protests over COVID-19 demands began on January 29 and quickly turned into a full blockade of the north and south lanes at the Canadian border. This border is only one of three that allow the importation of canned beef and live cattle into the United States.
Recent reports mention that after negotiations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the border was able to resume shipping as protests continue.
“Yeah, I think it’s about the farming community, and in many counties in general, even in the United States, there’s a lot of frustration and a lack of patience at this point with regards to the pandemic. And frankly, from a Canadian perspective, our restrictions have been, I would say, much tighter,” Haney said.
As the beef industry tries to make up for the disruptions of the week, the protests continue.
“I texted the protester yesterday. They seem very resolute. They intend to stay out there, keep their spirits up,” Haney said.
Continued delays could cause factories such as JBS to shut down for one to three days.