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Canada Beef Gets Rolling

The producers charged with merging the two marketing arms of the Canadian cattle industry seem to have struck a fine balance.

The top tier of the newly created Canada Beef Inc. announced in late July is made up of people from both the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF) and the Beef Information Centre (BIC) but an outsider and former packer has been put in charge.

Robert Meijer has worked for Cargill for the past 14 years, most recently as director of corporate affairs. During his career he managed the business end of 19 Cargill units dealing with beef, poultry, milling, malt, grain handling and port services, animal nutrition and canola processing.

In his last position he was responsible for government relations and regulation, communication and community relations. He’s also built up a network of contacts within the agriculture community as a member of the Federal Beef Roundtable, the Flax Council of Canada, the Malt Industry Association of Canada, the Western Grain Elevator Association, the Canada Grains Council and the Canadian Meat Council.

We should also remember that he was one of two packer members who resigned from the CBEF board along with past chairman Ben Thorlakson when a special meeting in February failed to endorse the merger. So he’s not a complete stranger to these organizations, although his appointment is still something of a surprise.

When the merger talks began in earnest this spring BIC’s CEO Glenn Brand, and CBEF’s president, Ted Haney, were viewed as the early frontrunners to become the new president. Both men had worked their way up through the ranks of their organizations and served producers with passion and dedication during their careers. Of course, they regularly ended up butting heads as each fought for their share of the checkoff dollars that formed the base of both budgets.

It is impossible to know what was in the minds of committee members when they made the final selection. The fact that neither Haney or Brand were chosen to head up Canada Beef may indicate the committee didn’t want to skew the new group toward one organization over the other. Or it may be that Meijer’s broad range of experience better represents the direction the producers want their new marketing arm to take in the future.

The next level more clearly reflects the past.

Cam Daniels who was in charge of export services for CBEF becomes responsible for building relationships with key partners and customers in Canada and around the world as the Canada Beef vice-president of global relations.

Herb McLane, a former executive vice-president of the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, past member of Federal Beef Roundtable and CBEF vice-president of international programs, takes on a similar role with Canada Beef as vice-president, international. In the new job he will lead the company’s international operations and take a more active role in co-ordinating market development activities with senior government officials.

John Baker carries his senior position at BIC over as vice-president, North America where he will head up market development activities in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. He’s also in charge of technical services.

Ron Glaser is vice-president of corporate services and communication, a role he handled capably at BIC and earlier at the Alberta Beef Producers.

Michael Shittu also carries over his job from CBEF as vice-president, finance for Canada Beef.

The Canada Beef board of directors is exactly as expected, 10 producers and six from the trade — packers, processors and retailers. The larger cattle-producing provinces have one producer rep at the table. Alberta has two to accommodate the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association who gained a seat for supporting the mandatory $1 national checkoff in Alberta until 2013. The two directors at large represent Maritime producers.

One reason the old CBEF board resisted the merger so long was to ensure that the new Canada Beef board would include packers and processors, since these are after all the people who sell the beef. Canada Beef’s role is to assist the trade in developing new markets, gather market intelligence and promote beef consumption at home.

Of course, this particular board will also be responsible for collecting the national checkoff.

Corporate mergers are often messy affairs but it is to be hoped this one will jell fairly quickly. The people already know each other, the overall task remains the same and they won’t have to waste time bickering over who should get a larger share of the producers’ money. Some will go to research and the lion’s share will be spent on Canada Beef.

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Apacker isputin charge

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Gren Winslow

Gren Winslow is a past editor of Canadian Cattlemen.

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