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Feds back SW Ont. packer bid for federal inspection

A farmer-owned beef packing plant in southwestern Ontario has picked up a government loan for new equipment that’s expected to allow it to shift gears from provincial to federal inspection.

West Grey Premium Beef, operating at Durham, about 100 km north of Kitchener, will get a $70,000 repayable contribution from the federal AgriProcessing Initiative.

“This funding will assist us with the transition from provincial to federal legislation, opening up broader marketing opportunities,” plant co-owner Doug Calhoun, a past-president of the Ontario Cattle Feeders Association who farms at nearby Dobbinton, said in the federal government’s recent release.

To that end, the funding to buy and install new processing equipment will allow the company to boost its production capacity and “create incremental market opportunities beyond the Ontario border,” both within and outside Canada, the government said.

Calhoun co-owns the company with fellow cattle producer George Maxwell and grocer Peter Knipfel, both of nearby Chesley, and their families.

According to the government, the company buys “100 per cent Ontario beef,” mostly from cattle operations within 50 miles of the plant. Its products, the government said, “respond to the increasing demand for local, fresh and premium quality beef products.”

The AgriProcessing Initiative, announced in the 2009 federal budget to run to the end of March 2014, is a $50 million federal program meant to “enhance the competitiveness” of existing agri-processing companies in Canada, by allowing them to adopt new and “new-to-company” technologies and processes.

The program will lend processors up to 50 per cent of eligible project costs, or up to $2 million per project, whichever’s less, toward buying and installing new-to-company machinery and equipment.

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