Janice Tranberg’s career has taken her on an impressive journey through many facets of the agriculture industry. This fall, she’ll bring her expertise to the top leadership role in the Canadian cattle feeding sector.
Tranberg is moving into the dual position of president and chief executive officer of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) and the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) this month, replacing Bryan Walton who will retire early in 2019. Tranberg, who was preparing to move with her family from Saskatoon to Calgary last month, brings a valuable perspective to this role, coming from the crop sector.
Her path to a career in agriculture began in rural northern Saskatchewan, where she was raised. “I grew up around producers,” she said. She was drawn to plants and obtained a horticulture diploma from Olds College. Her love of science led her to the University of Saskatchewan, where she received a master’s degree in molecular biology and plant pathology.
After working as a research scientist, her career focus changed. “When I cook in my kitchen I like to throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and see where it takes me, but when you’re a scientist you have to be extremely precise and everything has to be able to be repeated,” she says with a laugh.
Since then she has leveraged her knowledge and passion for science into a variety of exciting positions. “I found out quite quickly that I probably enjoyed regulatory and policy a lot more,” she said. “I quickly went into the area of communications, writing about it, working with people, and from there I went into regulatory affairs.”
Tranberg started working with Crop Life Canada, becoming its vice-president for Western Canada. From there, she moved to a position that gave her new insight into the way governments operate, serving as the assistant deputy minister for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, in which she oversaw the Agriculture Research, Crops and Irrigation and Regional Services branches.
“Not only did I learn previously how to work with the government in lobbying and bringing forward issues, but it was quite an interesting experience to work on the other side of the fence, working as the government and understanding what are the things that they need and they require to move forward as they’re making new regulations and legislature and policy.”
Before coming to the NCFA and ACFA, Tranberg was the executive director of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, a role that involved research, market development and advocating to benefit canola producers. She also worked directly with other farm and producer organizations on a number of issues.
This experience at working with and representing producers should serve her well during her tenure with the two feeder associations, and she believes her expertise gained in a different agriculture sector will allow for intriguing new opportunities. “As I was thinking about this job and applying for the job, I realized that there’s an awful lot of synergies between both the plant area and the livestock area,” she said.
One such example is the field of carbon sequestration. “In the crop side we talk an awful lot about no till and how that minimizes greenhouse gas emission, but (in) the livestock sector you have the greatest story to talk about on the grasslands. So I think by having those synergies and understanding both sides, there might be opportunities to bring messages together and have a stronger voice when you do have to go to the government to bring forward positions on ‘how do we manage carbon,’ for example,” she explained. “I’m excited about bringing in this knowledge that I have and seeing where there are areas where I think we can bring all of those pieces together.”
Another area with the possibility to transfer over this knowledge is sustainability, a topic in which Tranberg has some experience. She was involved in the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops and noted that its beef counterpart was well respected by her fellow members. “They were often talked about as one of the key drivers to sustainability and how they had worked through some of their sustainability standards, and they were ahead of the curve certainly in comparison to the grain industry,” she said.
“Public trust is an issue that we are grappling with in all sectors of agriculture,” she continued. “Every sector is going to have to do their part, and I think they are. That’s the good news. When you compare Canada around the world on multiple sustainability parameters, we’re already highly respected.”
She believes identifying opportunities for improvement will be a major part of continuing the feeder sector’s role in sustainable practices. These areas include water management, manure management and diet optimization. “I’m going to be exploring those opportunities and determining how we can move that forward.”
With this enthusiasm to work towards a positive future, Tranberg is looking forward to working with the boards and staff of the NCFA and ACFA. “One of the things that got me excited about the roles right at the very beginning was… you’re walking into a well-run organization. Bryan has done a great job, the board seems very engaged and the staff have a good level of expertise.”
Her early days on the job will focus on getting to know the people involved and what matters to them. “My first few weeks, I’m going to have to get out and meet people, and I’m going to try to meet our members and different stakeholder groups, key government relations, really delve deeper into understanding what are the issues of greatest concern and how can we move forward on that,” she said.
“One of the other things that’s going to be key right at the beginning is developing the membership value proposition, and that’s really going to come out of the work that’s already been done on the New Era Beef Industry and then determining with the (Alberta Beef Producers) plebiscite whether the fund will be refundable or non-refundable.”
Tranberg can’t wait to see where this new road leads. “I have had a really exciting career that’s been an awful lot of fun. I’ve had quite a few people say to me, ‘how have you managed the career that you’ve had without leaving the province of Saskatchewan?’” she said. “My family and I are currently in the process of getting ready to leave the home that we’ve lived in for 21 years, and as bittersweet as that is, it’s really exciting to get to look forward to a new chapter in our life, a new place and new people.”