“That will be a focus this year,” says NCFA chair Ryan Thompson. “We have made the federal government aware of it and other national organizations are also aware of and using it. It’s a public document on our website for anyone who wants the information.”
A feature of this report is the detailed economic analyses by RIAS Inc. for each priority issue to ensure the numbers stand up under the scrutiny of government officials, he adds. RIAS Inc. is an independent firm that uses the globally accepted methodology for preparing economic impact statements required by the federal government and some provincial governments when assessing the administrative and compliance burden caused by regulations.
The study was led by Noblepath Strategic Consulting and began with a focus-group meeting in each province from British Columbia through Quebec during the summer of 2015. In total, 50 people representing provincial associations, feeders, the cow-calf sector and service providers (vets, feedlot, truckers) attended the meetings. They identified the most problematic and costly federal/provincial regulations and policies and fully described how they had an impact on their day-to-day operations. The NCFA board later whittled the list down to six top issues for a complete economic analysis.
Following is a snapshot of potential annual gains the feedlot sector could expect if each of these issues were resolved.
- Labour: $266,134,000
- Drug harmonization: $85,356,000 plus another $62,282,000 if market access barriers were removed.
- Traceability: $68,546,000
- Export impediments: $5,343,000
- Transportation regulations : $4,500,000
- Inspection practices: $178,000
The full report describes these issues in detail as well as the potential annual gains to Canada’s GDP in terms of labour income and job numbers. Annexed documents include the issues raised in each province and more details on the eight frequently mentioned issues that didn’t make the top six: crops research, large-animal vet shortages, financing, packer barriers, environmental plan requirements for waste and water management, animal husbandry, access to imported calves, feed and feed processing.
“Competitiveness is one where we felt we could take the lead because, in reality, any issue affecting cattle feeders affects the whole industry. We support the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association however we can on national policy issues that affect the entire industry, but try not to overlap with what they are doing,” Thompson says, giving the trade file as an example.
“The CCA does a fantastic job on international trade and is well set up to do this, so there’s no need for us to stick our toe in.”
The NCFA also works with provincial feeder associations on issues they have identified in their jurisdictions that affect cattle feeders across the country.
The Exercise Beef workshop in Alberta last year, for example, came out of the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association’s initiative to develop a feedlot emergency preparedness template for its members.Thompson says it was a very successful and very useful exercise involving the whole gamut of people from all sectors, related services, and the CFIA. They worked through all sorts of scenarios to identify gaps should foot-and-mouth disease be diagnosed in Canada. The plan is to continue to have discussions and follow up with the next steps, ultimately laying out a step-by-step guide for how this emergency would be handled.
Some of the proposed changes to the livestock transportation regulations recently Gazetted for comment are concerning from the animal welfare standpoint, particularly the requirement for rest, feed and water stops every 36 hours instead of the current 48 with a four-hour leeway.
“It appears to be not as much research-based as public-perception based. Of course we want to have the public’s confidence, but to just say shortening the time is better for animal welfare is unfair. Every time animals have to be loaded on and off a truck adds stress and time to the trip. We are loading these trucks based on square footage and animal size with bedding and drivers say the animals do lay down when they stop for their own rest breaks,” Thompson explains.
The labour-shortage issue will be ongoing and NCFA will continue to work hand-in-hand with packers on this one because if packers don’t have enough labour to realize full value from the carcass, feeders won’t be getting full value for their animals. Changes to the temporary foreign worker program since the report was released have only halted further damage and the NCFA stands with all of agriculture and agri-food in support of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan’s roadmap to address critical labour shortages.
As for new projects waiting in the wings, Thompson says this will be a year to take a pause and look at how the association could increase its budget to keep up with the increase in activity, not only as far as projects go, but in its lobbying efforts as well.
“We have really increased our presence in Ottawa and as a national lobby organization have seen big value in improving relationships in Ottawa, so we want to make sure our focus is where it needs to be.”