District abattoir going provincial again

The on-again, off-again saga of the abattoir proposed for the west end of the district appears to be on again, but with a different twist, it was learned at the 14th-annual general meeting and conference of the Rainy River District Municipal Association on Saturday in Barwick.
Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association president Peter Spuzak told delegates a group of three local investors is proposing to build the abattoir to the lower provincial standards, instead of the federal standards as originally planned.
“We have three partners who are prepared to invest $100,000 each,” noted Spuzak.
He justified the change in plans on a number of grounds. First, the provincial proposal can be built for about half the price ($1.5 million) of a federal facility ($3 million).
As well, the provincial operation can be up and running in less time due to less red tape.
“There are so many hurdles for a federal plant,” Spuzak remarked.
But he also noted the abattoir actually could be built in such a way that it met federal structural standards without actually being licensed as such, in case it is decided to go for the federal designation at a future date.
La Vallee Reeve Emily Watson noted a number of district farmers are raising exotic animals such as elk and bison, and wondered if the proposed abattoir would be equipped to process them, too.
Spuzak’s associate, Russell Richards, assured her it would because such animals normally would require separate handling procedures at a federal plant, but not in the case of a provincial one.
The lesser designation also means animals slaughtered there only can be sold within Ontario, as opposed to across Canada and overseas.
But Spuzak insisted that would not be an issue, considering the proposed abattoir would be limited to about 30 head a day.
He also noted other provinces are facing the same cattle glut as is Ontario, so there would be a limited market for Rainy River District beef elsewhere anyway.
Spuzak said there are roughly 11,000 head of cattle in the district, of which 10 percent usually is turned over every year.
But because of the precipitous drop in prices since the BSE crisis, that number has been reduced to the point where prices paid did not cover shipping costs.
Consequently, many farmers are carrying these animals over the winter.
Spuzak said the provincial facility could be up and running in less than a year if the rest of the funding can be found.
Geoff Gillon and Telford Advent, with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., addressed that latter issue in their presentation later in the day.
Advent said as much as two-thirds of the cost for the abattoir could be available through various government grants, but there was a caveat.
“It must be a not-for-profit operation,” he stressed.
Gillon noted the RRFDC was available to help develop a business plan for the abattoir and market it outside the district, but under no circumstances will it operate or manage the facility.