The famous John F. Kennedy quote, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future,” couldn’t be more applicable in today’s beef industry.
Change is happening all around us, or about to happen, and it is absolutely vital that the beef industry remain adaptive during periods of flux. With change comes uncertainty but also opportunity. It is the opportunity that the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is focused on as it looks to the future. Established in 1932, the CCA is continually evolving with the industry, as policy concerns and priorities change over time. The recently updated CCA’s Priorities Document provides a breakdown demonstrating how CCA carries out its vision: to have a dynamic, profitable Canadian beef industry with high-quality beef products recognized as the most outstanding by customers at home and around the world. I encourage you to take a look at the document available on CCA’s website.
Trade of course is one area facing significant uncertainty at present and also opportunity. In May, I attended the annual convention of Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas (CNOG) in Mexico. I attended a trilateral meeting with cattle producer association counterparts from Mexico and the U.S., where discussions focused on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) discussions and the uncertainty around the ongoing trade talks. I talked about the benefits of the North American beef and cattle industry and reiterated that CCA is in lockstep with Mexico and U.S. producer organizations about the need to leave the terms of trade for beef untouched in the renegotiations.
I also congratulated CNOG for Mexico being the first country to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This will be a great opportunity for the growing Mexican beef export sector to gain access to the Japanese market once six CPTPP countries complete their ratification process. It is unclear at this moment whether the Canadian government will expedite introducing an implementation bill to Parliament and getting it passed in time for Canada to be amongst the first six countries.
The meeting was also a good opportunity to get to know the new officers in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) leadership hierarchy. Following the meetings, CNOG provided a tour of a cattle show at the grounds of the Neuvo Leon Cattle Producers Union. It was interesting to see many breeds familiar to producers in Canada crossbred with Brahman genetics: Brangus, Brahmousin, Simbrah, Charbray, Brahford and Beefmasters were all on display.
CCA executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft and director of government and international relations John Masswohl participated in discussions at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, D.C. There they met with key officials to discuss many trade issues including how Canada and the U.S. can work together to resolve ongoing trade issues with China and the European Union (EU). For example, the U.S. and Canada face identical sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) barriers in the EU that undercut their negotiated access for beef. Working together to remove these barriers will be more effective than going it alone.
The CCA outlined several ways that Canada-U.S. beef and cattle trade could be improved, such as by eliminating redundant inspections of beef and removing duplicative requirements for animal ID.
The CCA also shared the Canadian perspective of how the Canada-U.S. live cattle trade might change once Canada implements the CPTPP without U.S. participation. Given the tariff preference Canada will enjoy over the U.S. on beef exports, one likely outcome is on the trade in feeder cattle. Historically this trade has been predominantly from Canada to the U.S., but with the tariff preference it is likely that more feeder cattle will remain in Canada and it is possible that we will see some feeders moving from the U.S. into Canada.
The Government of Canada’s latest review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for Primary Agriculture is underway. The CCA attended the first consultation in May along with many other representatives across the agriculture and food processing industries to raise awareness of current challenges with the TFWP and offer solutions that will improve access to foreign labour when Canadians are not able to fill job vacancies. Primary Agriculture reviews for the TFWP will be ongoing in June. If you are a beef producer facing challenges accessing labour through the TFWP, please reach out to CCA so that your concerns can be raised in the review.
Finally, I was pleased when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) officially closed its investigation into the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) outbreak in Western Canada in May. The investigation found a total of six confirmed cases which were all the same strain of bTB. No source of infection was found. A summary report on the investigation and lessons learned will be posted on the CFIA website sometime in June.
The CFIA has cited the co-operation of producers and their associations as crucial throughout the investigation with no disruption in access to international markets as Canada maintained its bTB-free status.
This is another demonstration of industry collaboration resulting in a positive outcome during times of uncertainty. Until next time.