It’s a privilege to address you for the first time through this column as president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). As I take over CCA’s leadership from David Haywood-Farmer, I’d like to express my sincere thanks for his commitment to Canadian beef producers and the significant progress accomplished on key files during his term. I am committed to advancing our efforts concerning trade, food, health and environmental policy, while ensuring a sustainable future for beef production.
Over the past few weeks, the world as we know it has changed with the arrival of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada. We’ve all had to adapt to new protocols to help limit the spread of this virus and navigate these uncertain times one day at a time. CCA, along with numerous industry organizations and stakeholders, is continuing to work with the Canadian government to ensure stable beef production and trade.
We are committed to keeping the Canadian beef industry informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Comprehensive information and resources are available on the CCA’s website to help keep you updated and implement best practices on your farm, or during sales and branding/processing. We encourage you to review these resources and put relevant best practices in place for your operation. Thank you to everyone for doing what needs to be done to reduce crowd sizes and enhance physical distancing to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
As CCA president, my goal is to elevate the profile of Canada’s agriculture sector in the minds of Canadians and our various levels of government. I believe that this will help increase awareness and understanding of what we do and our role in sustainability, while helping improve consumer trust.
CCA is pleased to see that our provinces, territories and the government of Canada have deemed agriculture and agri-food an “essential service.” This is an important step in helping maintain open borders for trade, plants operating at full capacity and the uninterrupted flow of cattle and beef products through the beef value chain domestically and internationally.
Trade continues to be of critical importance. Our key priorities include: gaining U.S. equivalency for export requirements for the South Korean market; continuing efforts to maintain and increase market access for Canadian beef into China; addressing technical barriers limiting the ability of Canadian beef producers to realize the full potential of the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement; and working on a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom. Closer to home, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement received Royal Assent on March 13, 2020, and we look forward to seizing new opportunities to increase demand for Canadian beef in the U.S. and Mexico.
With the significant volatility in world markets, access to well-designed and sufficiently funded business risk management (BRM) tools has never been more critical for cattle producers. CCA is actively providing input into Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) BRM review. Our efforts are focused on enhancements to AgriStability, making the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) permanent and expanding cattle price insurance into the Maritimes and Eastern Canada.
Proposed amendments to Part XV of the Health of Animals Regulations are currently under consideration. CCA is pleased with the level of collaboration the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is offering through the Regulatory Implementation Committee and their willingness to provide to this committee a plain-language view of the proposed amendments being considered for the regulations. The goal of the proposed regulatory amendment is to improve Canada’s traceability system by strengthening the availability and accuracy of information on the domestic movement of livestock. The objective of the national Livestock Identification and Traceability program is to provide accurate and up-to-date livestock identity, movement and location information to mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks, food safety issues and natural disasters. CCA continues to advocate on traceability from the industry position outlined in the Cattle Implementation Plan.
When it comes to food policy, CCA will continue to encourage CFIA to keep the definition of meat as is, while ensuring that simulated meats are held to the same scientific standards as meat. CCA will continue to work with stakeholders and government officials as Health Canada moves to its next phase of the Healthy Eating Strategy, which may include front-of-package labelling. As food production and the environment are intrinsically connected, CCA will continue to influence public policy as to how the production of food and the environment can be complementary. CCA will also take a leadership role in the discussions concerning food waste.
On the environment file, CCA will continue to work alongside other concerned stakeholders to encourage the Pesticide Regulatory Management Agency to reconsider their decision to remove the use of strychnine to control Richardson’s ground squirrels due to their devastating impacts on grassland ecosystems and our concerns regarding the science cited in the decision.
In addition, CCA will provide input to the creation of codes of practice, standards and prescribed works regulations related to the implementation of the new Fisheries Act. Working with other agricultural stakeholders, we have created suggestions for specific exemptions and needs for codes of practice on a number of everyday aspects of beef production that could potentially have an impact on fish habitat. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has indicated consultations with the agricultural sector on the implementation of the act will commence in the spring.
Before signing off, I’d like to personally thank all front-line workers for their efforts to keep Canadians healthy, safe and well-fed. These are challenging times, but I believe that agriculture has the potential to pull the country through this time of crisis and lead it into the future.