CCA Report: The pressing issues of beef and forage research, traceability

From the May 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Research plays an integral role in achieving a competitive Canadian beef sector. In addition to investment in research and research infrastructure, other key factors include fully funding programs that help producers manage risk, investing in infrastructure, securing access to high value and growing markets, Canada’s regulatory operating environment, and ensuring access to sufficient labour. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has been continuously working in all of these areas to ensure the importance of having a competitive Canadian beef sector is well understood by the federal government.

As I write this column in early April, two of the most pressing issues on my mind are the need to replace critical beef and forage research infrastructure at the universities of Guelph and Saskatchewan, and the federal government’s approach to moving forward on traceability.

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The CCA views the reinvigoration of both universities’ research facilities to be of the utmost importance to the long-term strength and success of Canada’s agriculture industry, the economy, and food security and to support the government’s objectives on combating climate change.

Over the past months, there has been much discussion with government and elected officials, including ministers, to follow up on industry funding submissions for these projects. More news on the future of these requests will hopefully be available by the time this column is published.

As many producers know, the Universities of Guelph and Saskatchewan are home to vitally important beef research institutions. These once flagship research facilities are in need of significant upgrading to remain compliant with today’s operating standards and to maintain critical research capacity going forward.

The Elora Beef Research Centre at the university of Guelph — considered by the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) to be one of Canada’s best — is the only remaining facility in Central and Eastern Canada that has the capacity to do beef production research on a meaningful and integrated scale; encompassing everything from forage production, animal genetics, cattle production and feeding, to food safety and beef quality.

The University of Saskatchewan has the most comprehensive applied beef and forage research program in Canada. It encompasses forage and feed breeding and production, cattle genetics, cow-calf and feedlot production, veterinary medicine, and meat science.

A major commitment of producers’ checkoff dollars has been made as part of our industry application through provincial cattle associations to seek government funding for these projects. This is money well invested as research and teaching facilities like these will lead to significant benefits for the Canadian beef industry and the Canadian economy as a whole. Canada’s beef industry is a key driver of the economy, contributing over $18.7 billion to Canada’s GDP and representing the second-largest source of farm cash receipts in Canada in 2014. The beef sector generates an estimated 228,000 jobs in Canada with every job within the sector yielding another 3.56 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Also in April, I attended the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency annual general meeting and board meeting. The proposed Traceability Regulation that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is developing is a serious concern, as the federal government’s current program concept varies greatly from the previously agreed-upon Cattle Implementation Plan (CIP). I expect there will be further meetings to discuss and hopefully resolve the gap between the CIP and CFIA’s current regulatory concept. In the meantime, CCA will be explaining that CFIA is planning to build a regulation that the industry cannot implement and remain competitively viable, as part of ongoing outreach activities in Ottawa with members of Parliament.

The CCA continues to focus on implementing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ensuring that technical conditions in Europe enable the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to live up to its potential for Canadian beef exports. As I write this, CCA vice-president David Haywood-Farmer and executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft were planning to accompany Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay on a mission to Japan and Korea in late April, and I was planning to participate in meetings in Brussels with International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland. These missions are valuable to ensure industry issues are top of mind for the ministers.

Finally, I would like to encourage beef producers to complete the 2016 Census of Agriculture. The information captured by the census helps to inform much of the work the CCA does on behalf of industry. The census data is the anchor for cattle inventories, which are the base for production projections and monitoring the cattle cycle. This information in turn helps to inform business decisions to invest in the beef industry.

We know we are obligated by law to complete the census, but we should want to do it because ultimately, better data helps achieve better policies. The online survey has fewer questions and the process ensures it takes less time. Producers will be asked about the adoption of technologies, direct marketing, succession planning and renewable energy production, but are no longer required to provide detailed farm expenses and other information such as place of residence, details on irrigated land, or the source and use of manure. The collection of this information has been tailored to our needs as an industry and keeping it up to date will benefit us all.

Until next time.

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