It’s been a busy few months for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). Since my last column, CCA has released its priorities document with information for all candidates running for Parliament in the 43rd general election in October. Available on cattle.ca, the document outlines CCA’s recommendations to further position the beef industry as a key sector of sustainable growth in Canada. The CCA’s view is that Canada is well positioned to grow the green economy and continued free trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico increases our ability to do so. The CCA strongly encourages the Government of Canada to ensure the ratification of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, swiftly progresses.
In June, Mexico became the first country to ratify the updated and modernized North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new NAFTA will come into force the first day of the third month of all countries completing their respective ratification process. In Canada, legislation to ratify the CUSMA was agreed to at second reading in the House of Commons and referred to the International Trade Committee. The Liberals had indicated they would recall Parliament over the summer if needed to get the bill passed. The path to ratification in the U.S. is a topic Prime Minister Trudeau has discussed with President Donald Trump.
The North American beef industry is a highly integrated market and enables us to sell specific cuts of beef to the customer most willing to pay for it. As CCA relayed recently to the Standing Committee on International Trade in support of CUSMA, having access to markets around the world, including the North American market, means each beef carcass is on average worth $602 more than it would be if sold only to the Canadian market. CUSMA will allow beef producers in all three countries to continue to thrive and industry, in turn, to maintain a positive impact on the Canadian economy.
CCA’s priorities document also outlines key recommendations to further position the beef industry as a key sector of sustainable growth in Canada. CCA’s recommended actions in these and other key areas ensure the regulatory, access and environmental infrastructures are in place to enable industry to successfully compete in and navigate through an increasingly fractious international trade system.
A robust beef industry provides environmental benefits worthy of acknowledgment. In Canada, beef producers protect and sustainably use 44.2 million acres of grasslands through activities such as livestock grazing, which preserves habitat for species at risk and biodiversity. As noted in the State of Canada’s Birds 2019 report, “beneficial grazing on public and private lands is critical for the creation and maintenance of grassland bird habitat.” Further, the report recommends conservation actions including protecting the few remaining grasslands, including grazed public lands, from crop agriculture and restoring native grasslands to provide habitat and increase carbon storage. It also recommends citizens do their part by purchasing from sustainable farms and range-fed beef.
The CCA has long advocated for enhanced protection of the Great Northern Plains, an endangered grasslands ecosystem, from further conversion and encroachment. Canada’s beef industry is the largest Canadian conserver of these grasslands. The pasture and grazing land of Canada’s beef industry provides 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon sequestration annually while the industry’s greenhouse gas footprint is less than half the world average and one of the lowest in the world.
Other topics in the priorities document include addressing changes in the transportation of animals regulations and workforce shortages in the agricultural and red meat sectors. As proper animal care and welfare is paramount in the beef industry, CCA has formally requested a two-year extension on the coming-into-force date of the Health of Animals Regulations — Humane Transport from February 2020 to February 2022 to allow for science-based research to be completed to ensure the best outcomes in humane transportation are achieved.
Regarding labour, CCA applauds the recent announcement of an Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program by the federal government. The pilot is a step in the right direction and will allow beef producers and processors access to much needed workers with the opportunity for a pathway to permanent residency. The CCA and all partners in Canadian agriculture need a strong labour supply and workers with the right skills to grow food production in Canada.
CCA is pleased with the final amendments to Bill C-68, the Fisheries Act. The amended act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019, and contained several Senate amendments, including the repeal of the “Deeming Habitat” provision, or subsection 2(2). CCA has been asked to provide regulatory development input by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on defining routine agricultural structures and activities for exemption as well as related codes and standards. This process will take several months at least.
We appreciate the government support in attaining our sustainability goals. In July during the Calgary Stampede, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced an investment of $8.3 million in funding in support of the Canadian beef industry for six projects through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Two of the projects are being administered through the CCA and will support the work of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef ($1.1 million) and the Verified Beef Production Plus Program ($602,250). Taken together, these projects will maintain Canada’s global leadership position in beef sustainability.