I’d like to start off by congratulating Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland on their appointments with Canada’s new federal government. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is encouraged by the public remarks they’ve made to date on trade issues, and particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL). This month (December), the World Trade Organization (WTO) will announce a retaliation dollar amount that Canada is authorized to impose against U.S. exports in response to COOL. The CCA will be working with the federal government to ensure it protects Canadian producers through a retaliatory tariff, if the U.S. Senate does not join the House in repealing COOL to eliminate the incentive to segregate imported livestock.
Ensuring the momentum of opening international markets for Canadian beef exports is a top priority for CCA. The association held an executive meeting in Ottawa in early December and partnered with the Canadian Meat Council, Beer Canada and Spirits Canada to host a reception to welcome the new government and inform it about issues of importance to Canadian beef producers.
In our initial meetings with Minister MacAulay, CCA has stressed the need to focus on the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture, ensuring we have the operating environment and tools to take advantage of new market access. I personally intend to follow up on Liberal campaign platform topics regarding the need for access to labour, research and the commitment to make Business Risk Management more equitable and responsive. It is clear that the new government intends to address climate change and we will be more than happy to demonstrate to it all the positive contributions that Canadian beef producers make towards environmental conservation.
Recently in Edmonton, at the Farmfair International reception, I met with Alberta NDP Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier and asked him to advocate on behalf of the industry and support the TPP. Alberta is home to 41 per cent of Canada’s beef cattle herd and 76 per cent of the nation’s slaughter capacity. The minister understands the impact of agriculture on Alberta’s economy and the importance of expanding trade in agriculture through deals like the TPP. Support for TPP is something I will continue to seek from all provincial governments.
December will be busy with more producer meetings and a continuation of meetings in the U.S. A CCA representative was in Washington state in mid-November to meet with cattle association allies and continue advocacy efforts to repeal U.S. COOL legislation. CCA officials will also be in Washington, D.C. after the WTO Arbitrator’s report is released.
Along with other CCA officers and staff, I attended many fall producer meetings both here at home and across the country. In Alberta, the good weather in late fall is saving on feed with extended grazing on pasture and the damaged crop aftermath. Producers are taking this into account and making decisions on culling, replacements, and herd size going forward.
I’m pleased to report that overall, there’s a general approval of CCA policy and our interactions with government and trading partners. There’s widespread support for the National Beef Strategy and an understanding that implementing the strategic plan successfully will require more producer investment with an increase in checkoff. I’ve been using the TPP to help demonstrate this point. Once the TPP is enacted, Canada’s beef producers will receive the same preferential access to Japan and other key markets in Asia as its competitors. While the TPP will level the playing field for Canadian producers, there will be strong competition as beef-supplying countries become more commercially viable with lower tariffs.
Maintaining and increasing Canada’s market share in these key markets will require a major step up in Canadian branding, marketing and differentiation efforts in order to compete effectively with the U.S. and Australia.
Finally, I would like to extend a hearty season’s greetings to producers and their families. As I reflect on my time as CCA president this year I recall fondly the relationships I have forged with producers, government officials and the great CCA staff supporting us all.
This fall there were numerous demonstrations of their capabilities, particularly in the important area of industry’s social licence. The CCA led the response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Review of Red Meat and Processed Meats and did an excellent job of containing the issue by putting the findings into proper context for the consumers. The CCA, along with Alberta Beef Producer representatives and the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders, CCA’s youth mentorship program, were successful in their outreach to City of Edmonton elected officials and representatives to rethink a proposal for vegan menus for council’s catered meals.
These efforts were successful because they were transparent; they focused on information sharing to promote understanding and used peer-reviewed science-based facts to educate consumers about sustainable beef production, establishing a benchmark for how industry will address issues going forward.
I am extremely proud to be part of the many achievements the CCA has achieved in 2015 and look forward to continuing to lead the charge into the first quarter of 2016. c