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Positive development in Canada’s beef industry

CCA Report: Canada-EU trade advances, COOL at the WTO, and BSE surveillance

As I reflect on a busy August full of Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) business and begin planning for harvest, I am struck by a few welcome developments in Canada’s beef industry that are far from business as usual. Cattle prices continue to hold strong, giving cow-calf producers an opportunity to sell into a hot market in this fall’s calf run. The short supply of animals in general will be good for yearlings off of grass as well. All animal types are deriving incredible value as cull cow and bull prices are also adding significant returns to cow-calf producers. It is these types of prices and profitability levels that will have more people considering expansion.

Prior to the CCA Semi-Annual Meeting in Charlottetown, P.E.I., I participated in a research tour that focused on forages and feed efficiencies in Eastern Canada. As I travelled through the Atlantic provinces I was struck by the great opportunities for expansion in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I think there is real opportunity to work with the cash croppers in P.E.I. also, and to ultimately increase the size of the feeding and finishing sector in the Maritimes.

These are interesting times for Canada’s beef industry. On the trade front, now that Canada and the European Union (EU) have reached a complete text for a free trade agreement, it’s only a matter of time before the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) becomes a reality.

The Government of Canada recently announced it had regained full market access to Jamaica. While this market is small, every single market access win means producers can realize a better price for their cattle.

The CCA appreciates the efforts of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz to open markets for Canadian beef. The strong relationship the CCA has with Minister Ritz is equally vital when dealing with difficult matters like U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL).

In late July, COOL was discussed at length by myself and CCA vice-president Dan Darling at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) summer conference in Denver.

Minister Ritz also attended the conference. In reference to the ongoing dispute currently in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ritz told delegates that if successful, Canada will seek retaliation as quickly as possible and will target everything from California wine to Minnesota mattresses. He continued the tough talk on COOL at the CCA Semi-Annual.

The potential for retaliatory tariffs has commanded the attention of the U.S. Congress. Recently, 110 members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. secretary of agriculture and U.S. trade representative requesting that, should the WTO rule against the U.S., the secretary of agriculture “rescind the final rule while Congress works to permanently resolve the issue.”

The negative impact of Canadian and Mexican retaliation to the state of Iowa — a leading supporter of COOL — was discussed in an op-ed published in the Des Moines Register. The Corn Refiners Association in Washington, D.C. said $300 million worth of annual exports could be impacted, including commodities such as pork, corn, some prepared foods, while the corn wet milling industry could lose $500 million in annual sales to Mexico if corn sweeteners are targeted.

It suggests a solution put forth by a broad coalition of U.S. industries: should the WTO find that COOL is in violation of the U.S.’s international trade obligations, the secretary of agriculture should immediately suspend COOL indefinitely.

Speaking of international obligations, I was invited recently to participate in a video about BSE surveillance. I accepted the invitation because I feel strongly about Canada meeting its commitment to the OIE to maintain surveillance and testing levels in order to meet the expectations of Canada’s domestic and international customers. It is something that we must do in order to continue selling our beef around the world.

Participating in the video, which is aimed at producers and due to be released later this month, served as a good reminder of the importance of BSE surveillance to the Canadian industry. It prompted me to review options on my own farm with fresh eyes, and I urge my fellow beef producers to do the same.

This is the time of year for producers to take stock of the animals they have on farm and make culling decisions. I’m doing this on my own operation and have selected some cows that although in decent shape now may not be suitable for shipping for slaughter in a few months’ time. Once they have finished raising their calves I will call my veterinarian and have them assessed to see if they can fit into the program, because it is the right thing to do. I’d also urge producers to submit any eligible animals including all deadstock for testing as this is another way for Canada to meet its international commitments.

The experts say cattle between 30 months and 10 years of age provide the most valuable information in terms of monitoring the cattle population for BSE. However, any animal older than 30 months of age that fits into one of the categories of dead, down, dying or diseased are potential candidates for testing.

Taking positive actions like this will help Canada keep its place as a beef-exporting country. The measures in place are doing their job but we still need to ensure surveillance is at the appropriate level to measure the effectiveness of the controls. Meeting our testing commitments will help put Canada in a position to apply for negligible risk status in the fall of 2015 for approval at the OIE meeting in 2016.

Dave Solverson is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. This report was originally published as, “A busy August,” in the September issue of Canadian Cattlemen.

About the author

Contributor

Dave Solverson is a past president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. With his brother Ken and daughter Joanne they 
operate Woodwind Ranch, near Camrose, Alta. 
He can be reached at 780-679-9625 
or [email protected]

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