CCA reports: Supporting young producers through COVID and beyond

From the September 28, 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Young woman is standing by a fence on a ranch with cattle in the distance

It is safe to say that 2020 has been a challenging year due to uncertainties unleashed by the arrival of COVID-19 on Canadian soil. These unprecedented times have been difficult for cattle producers across Canada — especially our young producers. It has reaffirmed the importance of young producers having access to financing and affordable land to run profitable operations, the need for clear succession planning and enhancing leadership development opportunities for youth considering a career in beef production. It continues to be a priority of our board to invest in the next generation who will lead our industry as well as ensuring that their perspectives and unique needs are communicated to policy-makers in Ottawa.

The Young Cattlemen’s Council (YCC), established in 2013, attracts beef enthusiasts aged 18-40 from across Canada and offers youth leadership opportunities. Through the YCC, delegates can serve on Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) policy committees as non-voting members. This provides them with invaluable policy-setting experience and offers an important youth perspective on timely industry issues and priorities. YCC also works to be a conduit of information between industry organizations and the youth of the beef industry.

In early August, YCC held their annual general meeting (AGM) and welcomed Holly Thompson (Sask.) as president, Jessica Sperber (Alta.) as vice-president, Martin Clausen (Alta.), Kate Barnett (Man.) and Susan Hamilton (Atlantic) as provincial delegates, and Carley Henniger (B.C.) as a member-at-large. We look forward to having all of you involved in future CCA initiatives.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Ricky Seelhof (B.C.), Stefan Bouw (Man.), Geoffrey Larkin (N.S.) and Ethan David (Sask.) for their contributions to YCC and the Canadian beef industry — I know this won’t be the last time that we will cross paths. We are also pleased that 2019 YCC president Kayla Weston (Alta.) will remain on the YCC board for a third year as past-president.

CCA is also proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Mentorship Program this year, which was established to develop future leaders in Canada’s beef industry. CYL unveiled a special video presentation looking back on the last decade of the program during the virtual Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC). It was a fun way to thank and recognize all of the mentors, participants, program sponsors and important people involved with the program over the years who have helped advance the program to where we’ve seen over 120 graduates since CYL was established in 2010. We were humbled to see the industry’s support and excitement surrounding this milestone. If you missed the special presentation, it is available for viewing on the CYL website ( and on CCA’s YouTube channel.

This year’s 24 CYL semi-finalists were selected from written applications from across Canada. They then moved on to the annual CYL selections event to compete for one of 16 spots in the upcoming program year. While the selection process is usually held at CBIC, this year the event shifted to a virtual format held on August 10, 2020. Semi-finalists were judged on their participation in discussions with their peers concerning timely topics in the beef industry such as the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability and adopting precision agriculture technology. It is incredibly encouraging to see our next generation equipped with such strong enthusiasm, passion and great ideas that will build upon the success of the Canadian beef industry.

Congratulations to this year’s 16 finalists! We are pleased to have finalists from British Columbia (two), Alberta (seven), Saskatchewan (two), Manitoba (two), Ontario (two) and Prince Edward Island (one). These finalists will be paired with a hand-picked industry leader for their mentorship. Stay tuned for future announcements on this year’s mentors on social media channels for CCA and the CYL program.

Also, we usually celebrate a group of CYL graduates crossing the stage at CBIC, but due to COVID-19-related cancellations of travel and networking opportunities, we are pleased to be able to extend their time in the program by another year. The 2020 class will be joining this new incoming class of CYLs to graduate in August 2021.

CCA also supports youth growth and development in the Canadian beef industry through our Student Internship Program. This program is committed to providing enriching opportunities focused in policy, research, advocacy, economics and market information, sustainable production and industry outreach. This year, we were pleased to have Matthew Trefiak, a second-year student at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, join us for the summer. He started remotely in early May due to COVID-19, but hit the ground running. He worked closely with the policy team on preparing briefing notes related to our recommendations to government to help beef producers mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and he assisted Canfax and the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) on projects. Thank you, Matthew, for your contributions to the team over the summer. We wish you well in this upcoming school year.

We are very proud of the accomplishments of our youth leadership programs. We look forward to continuing our Student Internship Program next summer and working closely with the YCC and CYL finalists to share their stories, experiences and ideas to help further the priorities and goals of the beef industry in Ottawa. Stay tuned for updates on these activities.

About the author


Bob Lowe is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.



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