CCA Report: The way forward

From the April 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

I am pleased to be addressing you as president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). I, along with vice-president David Haywood-Farmer, were elected by acclamation at the CCA 2016 annual general meeting (AGM) in March. I am truly honoured to take on the role of CCA president and will continue to represent the best interests of beef producers across Canada.

I’d like to start off by introducing myself. Along with my brother Van, I operate a cow-calf operation with 250 cows and background calves on 1,500 acres in the Township of Cramahe of Northumberland County, Ont. We cash crop corn, soybeans and wheat for grain, as well as forages to feed our cow herd. We also sell freezer beef by the cut and side to local consumers. Along with my experience at the CCA, I’m a past president of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) and represented Ontario beef farmers provincially on the BFO Cow-Calf and Government Relations Committees.

I’m the first Ontario-based CCA president since Stan Eby (2004-06). Eby, whom I was pleased to see attend the 2016 CCA AGM in Ottawa, led the industry through the early years of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis. His leadership and particularly his point that “industry is in this together and we need to work together to find a path forward,” set the tone for many initiatives in the beef cattle sector since then, including most recently the National Beef Strategy.

I would like to thank past president Dave Solverson for his leadership during the past two years. The CCA achieved many significant accomplishments under his tenure. Trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could be very beneficial for Canadian beef producers by allowing the industry to enjoy equal or preferential access to high-value markets.

The CCA’s focus on trade will continue. My top trade priorities include achieving a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, access for beef from animals over 30 months of age with Mexico, and resolution of the long-standing technical barriers that have prevented the European Union (EU) from approving Canada’s main packing plants to export to the EU. This will enable meaningful access for Canada’s beef producers under CETA.

Traceability is crucial to expanding trade, and I would like to see movement from the government towards having the industry-supported Cattle Implementation Plan accepted as the business plan that best reflects the realities of cattle production.

The CCA’s focus on continuous improvement will not change. Organizationally, the CCA is well equipped to deal with the headwinds that face the industry going forward and I have confidence in the exceptional work we do on behalf of Canada’s 68,500 beef operations.

Climate is a major focus of the Government of Canada. Fortunately Canadian beef cattle producers are already among the most sustainable and efficient in the world. They are utilizing tools like managed grazing and raising feed-efficient cattle to maintain that trend. Due to investment in research and innovation the beef cattle sector in Canada has one of the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints for beef in the world. A recent study showed the GHG intensity per kilogram of beef has decreased by 15 per cent from 1981-2011, and that in 2011, it required 24 per cent less land and 27 per cent fewer cattle to produce an equivalent amount of beef as in 1981.

The CCA and groups like the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) are producing leading-edge work in this area going forward. Through the CRSB, the Canadian cattle industry is recognized as a global leader in the continuous improvement and sustainability of the beef value chain through science, multi-stakeholder engagement, communication and collaboration. I look forward to engaging with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to discuss the forward-thinking work underway in the beef cattle sector.

The recently released Labour Market Information Study (LMIS) underscores the need for the Canadian Agricultural and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan.

The LMIS found that the chronic workforce shortages in Canada’s agricultural sector are expected to continue, with the number of unfilled jobs in the beef sector forecast to quadruple over the next decade. The study also found that unfilled vacancies cost the beef industry $141 million in farm gate cash receipts in 2014.

A dedicated plan for Canadian agriculture is critical to ensure the industry has a sufficient workforce to take advantage of significant opportunities in the future. The CCA stands with every other segment of Canadian agriculture and primary processing in supporting the Labour Task Force’s Canadian Agricultural and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan, and encourages its swift implementation. Proactively addressing workforce issues in agriculture, in terms of insufficient labour to fill jobs at packing plants and farms and the lost opportunity those chronic job vacancies create, is a top priority for the CCA.

The beef cattle industry is a major driver of the Canadian economy in both rural and urban areas. In 2014 the beef cattle industry contributed $18.7 billion to Canadian GDP. Market access expansion and potential trade deals on the horizon will mean more opportunity to export Canadian beef and beef products. Industry must make the most of these opportunities, but the current labour situation is a serious threat to our competitiveness.

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