Canada's livestock producers are applauding a new Canadian Food Inspection Agency service guide, which includes a mechanism for handling complaints and appeals.
The complaints mechanism is particularly welcome because it gives farmers a direct avenue for solving problems arising from CFIA's food inspection procedures, industry officials say.
"If there's a shutdown at a plant or if there's a transportation issue, that automatically backs up production on-farm," says Rick Bergmann, vice-chair of the Canadian Pork Council.
"Instead of phoning another department of CFIA to see what the problem is, there's an appeals committee that would focus directly and quickly on the concern."
CFIA recently announced a Statement of Rights and Service for producers, consumers and other stakeholders outlining what the agency does and what people can expect when dealing with it.
Its purpose, according to a news release, is to "offer stakeholders and CFIA staff a clear, plain language explanation" of the working relationship between the agency and the industry.
Farm and industry groups issued statements expressing approval for the initiative, especially the formation of the complaints mechanism, which will give them recourse if they disagree with a regulatory decision.
"This part of the initiative will be well received by industry and particularly producers who have experienced frustrations with the CFIA inspection process in the past," says Martin Unrau, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association's newly elected president.
Those frustrations include actions by CFIA inspectors at the receiving end which can immediately affect a producer's ability to ship live animals, says Bergmann, a weanling producer from Steinbach, Man.
"That causes a very quick bottleneck directly back to the farm," he says. "By having an appeals committee, it would keep everybody more accountable."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business also welcomed CFIA's promise to improve accountability and service.
CFIB has criticized CFIA in the past for what it calls a lack of transparency in the way the agency deals with stakeholders. The complaints and appeals mechanism will help to correct that, says Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB's vice-president for agribusiness.
"We believe this is one of the practical ways the CFIA can be more accountable and fair," says Braun-Pollon.
Canada's processors say CFIA's new guidelines will help them better understand their own responsibilities in dealing with the agency.
"In addition to clarifying CFIA expectations of industry, the guides identify the rights of companies during and following CFIA inspection activities," says a joint statement by the Canadian Meat Council, the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council and the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada.