At meetings around the country this spring provincial cattle organizations have been adding a dollar to their local checkoffs. The reasons are well known. Cattle numbers are down, and likely to remain so for a while yet, so checkoff revenues are down.
Once an organization gets around to asking for an increase the final vote is generally a sure thing, but not always. At the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) meeting this spring some delegates wanted to know if Ontario was getting full value from the $400,000 or so it expects to send the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) this year. In the end they agreed it was and voted the $1 increase.
I know some of you still think your checkoff goes to the CCA but that’s not how if works. Provincial cattlemen associations collect the checkoff and are billed for their share of the CCA’s annual budget based on their share of national marketings.
In 2013 CCA took in $3.2 million in direct payments from the provinces plus $300,000 in an extra legal assessment. The CCA has been running a legal kitty for years, mostly to pay for pricey lawyers who fight off trade actions in the U.S. If you want a bit of encouraging news, the legal bill was down last year from $561,000 the year before.
Toss in a bit of interest on their savings and the CCA raised $3.4 million in 2013 but spent $3.5 million. That meant once again it had to pull a little bit from the mattress (which is now down to about $440,000). The total the CCA receives from producers hasn’t changed much since 2008, which is as far back as I bothered to check.
So $3.2 million is essentially what you spent on CCA last year through your provincial associations. Of course, the CCA mines more money out of sponsorships and industry and government grants to keep all its programs running. What you pay for is the people who run the organization and associated travel costs for them and producer directors who volunteer much of their time to represent your interests.
None of this money is spent on marketing and promotion. Your share of that much larger pot comes out of the national $1 checkoff that is sent to Canada Beef Inc.
With that in mind I started flipping through the 2013 CCA annual report to see just what you got for your CCA dollars in the past year.
Since my space is limited let’s focus on the biggies in the trade file. Market access remains the single biggest need of the industry and quite rightly tops the CCA’s agenda.
- After years of discussion, debate and arm twisting at every level Japan finally increased the age limit for beef imports related to BSE from under 21 months of age to 30 in January 2013. Canadian packers can now select beef for Japan from any A grade animal 52 weeks a year. As a result exports to Japan increased by 35 per cent and $9 million to $70 million in 2013 and are projected to reach $90 million in 2014.
- The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was the other major trade deal that was signed last year. That alone could be worth $600 million to the industry. Of course governments sign trade agreements so it’s hard to say how much the CCA had to do with this win. What we know is the organization spent a lot of time and money being on hand to offer advice and prodding to negotiators at endless meetings both here and abroad. At one point they even sent directors over to talk to European producer groups in an attempt to quell their fears over the agreement.
- The results with country-of-origin labelling were more disappointing but that’s not through any lack of effort on the part of CCA or the Government of Canada. Some might wonder if things would have turned out any differently had the CCA not been involved, but that could be said of any lobby group. A good deal of the groundwork in accounting for the damage caused by COOL was led by the CCA. We can hope that retaliatory tariffs are not needed, but if they are approved by the WTO panel, Canada will be prepared.
- At the end of 2013 and early this year the CCA was in Singapore at the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations pushing for the position shared by the Five Nation Beef Alliance that tariffs on all products should be eliminated and non-tariff barriers addressed.
Another old shoe dropped last month with the signing of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement which has been a long-term goal of the CCA trade team.
This is only a small sample of what the CCA has been doing with its $3.2 million. It’s also had a hand in the new beef code, the creation of the western livestock price insurance program, environmental roundtables… the list is a long one. You should check it out; it’s your money.