Calving is always a hectic time for producers, with round-the-clock care required no matter the weather, and one that finishes with a sense of reward and renewal. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has undergone a renewal of sorts over the past few months as well, with new directors elected to the board and the addition of a new provincial association member.
At our annual general meeting in March, CCA welcomed new directors Brian McKersie (B.C.), Charlie Christie (Alta.), Miles Wowk (Alta.), Gord Adams (Man.), Jason Reid (Ont.) and Craig McLauglin (Ont.) to the board. I’d like to acknowledge outgoing directors Lary Fossum (B.C.), Roland Cailliau (Alta.), Bryan Thiessen (Alta.), Heinz Reimer (Man.), Tom Wilson (Ont.) and Matt Bowman (Ont.) for their years of service and dedication to the industry. I especially want to thank all our directors for taking time away from home during calving to assist the CCA with the important work that we do at our meetings on behalf of Canada’s beef producers.
Another new development at CCA is the addition of Quebec Cattle Producers/Les Producteurs de bovins du Québec as a provincial member association. We are pleased to welcome Quebec Cattle Producers and look forward to their working alongside all our provincial association members in our efforts to represent Canada’s beef industry.
Also, on April 1 the federal levy for producers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba increased to $2.50. Most of the country has now increased their levy or has set a date to increase, in support of the National Beef Strategy and its goal to build up our research/innovation and market development capacities to continuously improve returns to producers.
On the trade front, we are monitoring escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China. In April, China announced a $50 billion list of U.S. goods for possible tariff hikes, including beef, corn and wheat, in an escalating dispute with Washington. China’s move was in response to actions by the U.S. Trump administration, which proposed a list of roughly 1,300 Chinese goods ranging from agricultural equipment to raw metals, to be levied with a 25 per cent duty. China had earlier imposed duties on $3 billion of U.S. pork, apples, and other goods in response to higher American import duties on steel and aluminum.
China’s action applies to U.S. beef products. While U.S. exports of beef directly to China are not large, trade wars are never good and generally distort world markets by interrupting normal trade flows.
Hypothetically speaking, if a trade war were to occur, the issue for Canada would be in terms of the redirection of displaced U.S. exports of red meat, with pork facing the more significant impact from a volume perspective.
Additional red meat would need to be absorbed in the North American market (including Canada), or redirected to lower value markets, which will in turn have an impact on Canadian prices.
Canadian chilled beef recently received approval to ship directly to China on a pilot basis, and we will be pursuing the premium market with our high-quality beef. This access follows CCA’s participation in Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s mission to China in November, and again in December on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to Beijing. Followup will include working to earn the confidence of the Chinese market and officials to turn this into permanent access and seek approval of additional facilities. Other priorities include obtaining access for offals and negotiate a free trade agreement to eliminate the current 12 per cent duty on Canadian beef.
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reached a new intensity in April as it seems further “rounds” are giving way to continuous high-level discussions. As the pace picked up, we have heard rumblings of pro-country-of-origin labelling (COOL) groups in the U.S. seeking to reinsert that issue into the negotiations. CCA and its U.S. and Mexican counterparts are united in opposing reintroduction of COOL and have written jointly to the leadership of our respective nations on that point and to express our desire for a successful agreement to maintain and improve NAFTA.
I remain focused on ensuring that Canada’s government proceeds quickly to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) so that Canada will be among the initial six members to implement and get a leg up on the competition. The CCA has been a leading voice for swift ratification, working with partners to deliver that message to Parliament Hill.
In March, Minister MacAulay and Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier toured the ranch where the first confirmed case of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) was detected in September 2016. CCA was present for the tour and the ministers were able to see first-hand how AgriRecovery was key in getting assistance to producers to cover extraordinary costs created by the quarantine measures. This is yet another example of industry and government working together to foster and promote understanding. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has cited the co-operation of producers and their associations as playing a crucial role throughout the investigation with no disruption in access to international markets as Canada maintained its bTB-free status.
I look forward to the CFIA’s final report on the bTB investigation expected this spring.
Until next time.