A new year gives us all a sense of hope of possibilities for the year ahead. The start of 2021 is like no other, however, as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. As an industry, we have shown resiliency and continue our efforts to overcome the challenges we’ve faced over the last nine months. We could not have fathomed a year ago how a human health issue could have such potential long-term impacts for Canadian beef producers.
While we don’t know what this coming year will bring, and as hard and challenging as it was in 2020, we need to remain vigilant and realistic about the pandemic’s legacy for our industry. This is not the time to become complacent. We must keep moving our industry forward to remain competitive on the world stage by strengthening our trade agreements, providing solutions to government to enhance the responsiveness of business risk management programs and continuing conversations with consumers about where their food comes from and the connection between cattle and the environment.
I believe the Canadian beef industry is well-positioned to help rebuild the Canadian economy and secure future growth. We must remain steadfast in our approach and continue pressing for strategic investments to support our industry, cattle producers and our food system. However, we can’t do this alone and need meaningful government engagement to help make this a reality. As we drive our business during this unprecedented time, along with partner organizations, we are engaging in a number of measures to keep us moving forward.
That is why CCA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic focuses on maintaining business continuity. We remain committed to ensuring that our industry can function as well as possible during these uncertain times, whether that be by keeping our borders open for trade, ensuring inspection services remain available, working with processing plants to maintain or quickly recover capacity, and developing protocols for cattle sales and business activities.
Trade is an important component of our ability to overcome the economic impacts of the pandemic. While CCA is pleased with the overall improved market access that we’ve attained in recent years, it is more important than ever that we grow our exports by enhancing current agreements, access new markets and remove technical trade barriers.
For example, CCA foresees the U.K., our largest trading partner under CETA, becoming a high-value market for Canadian beef. Following a transitional agreement reached in November, we are actively encouraging the governments of Canada and the U.K. to begin negotiations as soon as possible to secure a permanent trade deal that ensures reciprocal access for beef producers. While we have experienced growth in exports, there has been an even larger growth in imports from the EU. CCA is working hard to address many of the trade barriers into the EU and is ensuring these concerns are incorporated into any agreement with the U.K.
During the pandemic response, CCA has worked tirelessly to keep lines of communication open with the Government of Canada and developed solutions to government that would provide meaningful assistance to beef producers during these uncertain times.
At the federal, provincial, territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers’ meetings held in November, Minister Bibeau tabled a proposal for significant changes to the AgriStability program consistent with a number of the recommendations CCA brought forward. These changes included the removal of the reference margin limit and an increase to the compensation rate from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. The minister also alluded to consideration for other program enhancements with her provincial and territorial counterparts. CCA thanks Minister Bibeau for advancing this proposal and we will continue to engage with FPT ministers alongside provincial cattle associations to achieve a national agreement on AgriStability reform. We will also continue to advocate on the breadth of recommendations we have put forward, including the trigger and removal of the caps on payments.
We have a positive story to tell about the connection between cattle and the environment. Through the 2030 beef goals, we can demonstrate that we are committed to continually improving our stewardship practices. A great example of this is McDonald’s Canada showing their commitment to Canadian beef producers and sustainability by highlighting sustainable beef sourcing in their Quarter Pounder line of burgers. McDonald’s is now sourcing at least 30 per cent of the beef for the Quarter Pounder lineup from CRSB Certified Sustainable farms and ranches. I’m sure many of you have now seen a number of commercials which help share our sustainability story with consumers across Canada.
Our business success thrives on people. Labour continues to be a limiting factor to growing Canada’s beef export potential. Having access to a skilled workforce remains an important priority for CCA and we are pleased the government of Canada allocated $34.4 million to extend the existing Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers program through the end of March 2021. This is a top-up to an existing program which provides support to agriculture employers with the 14-day isolation requirements for newly arrived temporary foreign workers.
On behalf of the board and staff at CCA, we look forward to continuing to advocate and be the proud voice of Canadian cattle producers in 2021. Now more than ever, we are committed to keeping the lines of communication open between industry stakeholders and the government, and ultimately have a positive impact on our producers from coast to coast. Stay tuned for updates in the industry through Action News, our bi-weekly newsletter, social media channels and regular updates in the COVID-19 resources section on our website. I wish you a successful year ahead. Stay healthy and safe.