March proved to be a busy month with calving in full swing at the ranch at home and other new beginnings to tend to elsewhere. I was pleased to connect quickly with the new Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, by phone in the days following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle in early March. Days later I met her in person at an event in Vernon, B.C., where she and B.C. Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham announced they’d triggered the late participation mechanism under the AgriStability program for the 2018 program year. This move will benefit more B.C. producers and farmers impacted in 2018 by the wildfires. Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, and I had the opportunity to speak with the minister about other matters of importance to the beef industry.
CCA representatives also met with the minister in Calgary at an event hosted by the Calgary Chamber. I am pleased with our interactions with the minister thus far. Minister Bibeau is from a Quebec riding with a lot of agriculture. This, along with her previous role as Minister of International Development and her experience in sustainable development, brings a perspective that fits well within modern agriculture — and the beef sector in particular where sustainable production and innovation support Canada’s economic and environmental targets.
The CCA and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have traditionally enjoyed a close working relationship when dealing with matters of importance to the long-term competitiveness of the Canadian beef industry. We look forward to building an equally positive relationship with Minister Bibeau and are excited to be working with the first female federal agriculture minister in Canadian history.
The CCA thanks Minister Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s agriculture minister since November 2015, for his hard work and dedication over the years in representing Canadian agriculture and Canada’s beef producers. We wish him well in his new role as Minister of Veterans Affairs.
At the CCA, our job is to represent the beef producers who operate Canada’s 60,000 beef farms, cattle ranches and feedlots by working with government to resolve issues of importance to the industry. This advocacy work takes on many forms. No matter the issue of the day — business risk management programs, market access, regulations or the healthfulness of beef protein in the human diet, CCA’s view is that Canada must maintain a science-based approach to regulatory decision-making to provide industry with a predictable, credible, consistent and transparent regulatory environment.
In late February, the CCA appeared before the Standing Committee of Industry, Science and Technology to discuss the key principles underpinning good regulatory structure. The CCA was invited to provide input into the committee’s study of the impact of Canada’s regulatory structure on small businesses and was pleased to provide an overview of the main elements of a regulatory system from the beef producer perspective.
The Government of Canada published the revised Health of Animals —Transport Regulations the following day. The CCA’s view is that the revised transport regulations fail the test of the principles for good regulatory structure we outlined to the committee a day earlier.
Unfortunately, the revised regulations appear to ignore recommendations included in the CCA’s extensive comments, questions and recommendations submitted during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) review process and to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. This included advice and recommendations from cattle producers, drawn from years of practical hands-on expertise in handling and minimizing stress on their animals.
The CCA will be analyzing the revised regulations document in full and will continue to engage the Government of Canada on our concerns about the animal welfare implications of these regulations before they come into effect next year.
The cattle industry’s objective is for animals under transport to arrive successfully at their destination in good health and condition, without injury and while minimizing stress. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s own research shows that 99.95 per cent of cattle on long-haul journeys reach their destination in good condition.
The revised regulations were also released prior to the completion of ongoing research that would inform a decision on how to change the regulations to ensure the best outcomes for animal care. This research, funded in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, will collect data through 2021 and is being conducted using commercial cattle, transport trailers and drivers under typical commercial distances and conditions in Canada, as it is important to base regulations on directly relatable conditions and scenarios. This research will inform science-based industry best practices to ensure animal welfare is safeguarded during transport.
Without fully evaluating unknowns such as the stress of unloading and reloading versus the stress of completing the journey, the effects of temperature, trailer design, loading densities as well as whether rest stops do, in fact, relieve stress, the government is taking a risky approach with the revised regulations that we anticipate will move industry’s good record away from, rather than closer to, 100 per cent.
The CCA believes that the government is responsible for providing a regulatory framework that protects public health and food safety, protects animal health and welfare, and sustains the environment in a manner that contributes to competitiveness and innovation. Thus, government regulations must be based on appropriate management of real risks and an accurate analysis of the costs and benefits of these regulations.