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CCA Reports – for Apr. 5, 2010

Brad

Wildeman is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

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It is with mixed emotions that I write this last column as the president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. My two-year term as president has been nothing short of an incredible experience — one that allowed me the opportunity to learn much about what makes our industry tick. I received a great deal of advice along the way on how to manage the many issues the industry is dealing with.

The Canadian beef cattle industry is a complex one comprised of interdependent relationships where each sector is influenced by the circumstances in another sector. While solutions to industry issues may sometimes appear to be quite simple, when viewed in the context of these relationships the answers are often not quite so obvious. Ultimately we all want to ensure the industry’s viability for the longer term, and so any solutions we devise must fit that objective.

Another takeaway from my time as president is the passion many producers have for the betterment of the industry. Perhaps it is the connection producers have to the land, to the animals in their care, and the deep-seated desire to pass on their way of life to future generations that inspires this passion.

Whatever the motivation, it is certainly powerful to witness and I am pleased to see this same level of passion in many young producers. I have had the privilege of meeting many young and dynamic producers who are committed to making their living in the cattle business. They are excited about the future of the industry and their place in it, and I find their enthusiasm incredibly inspiring.

Toward the end of my term, I spent a lot of time thinking about how we can change the dynamics of our industry in a fundamental way that will improve our circumstances in the longer term. The many conversations I have had with fellow producers have reinforced the need for change in this area. If we accept that consumers and a growing number of politicians know very little about what we do, and thus shape their opinions from what they read or see in the media, then we face a serious issue.

Well-funded anti-meat groups and environmental activists with hidden agendas are using clandestine methods to denigrate our industry by portraying it in a negative manner. Their messages lack the backing of any credible evidence but in a vacuum, consumers and future policy-makers have little choice but to believe what they see in the media.

As an industry, we simply cannot continue to hope that common sense and reason will prevail. We have a great story of our own to tell; about the cattle industry, our commitment to food safety, the health and welfare of our

by Brad Wildeman

animals, and the protection of native riparian areas and wildlife habitat. Our vision of environmental sustainability is unmatched in any other industry in the world.

The challenge for producers is in getting this story out to those who do not know the industry well, and in a way that resonates with them.

Some of the most successful strategies I have seen involve cattle organizations attracting, training and equipping young farm families to act as industry spokespeople. These young producers promote a positive image to urban stakeholders by explaining the key attributes of the industry and the personal satisfaction gained from raising beef cattle.

The enthusiasm and confidence of these young spokespeople as they tell their stories to the public can inspire others to work harder to ensure they have the future all producers so deeply desire. I am absolutely convinced that this approach will bring about positive change for both the image of our industry and the way our key stakeholders view us.

Equally important is involving these enthusiastic, young cattle people in our livestock organizations. This is not without its challenges as many of them are busy with family and building their businesses. As well, the financial burden to attend various meetings, tours and workshops can make it difficult to participate.

Removing some of these constraints will enable these producers to learn from a variety of experiences, like visiting innovative cattle operations in Canada and internationally, interacting with industry leaders and witnessing policy making in progress. Such experiences will undoubtedly inspire some of these producers to become involved in moving our industry forward. Nurturing future leaders and next generation champions is a critical component of building a sustainable future.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to accomplishing the goal of a sustainable future but there is one constant and that is it will take money to fund any approach.

In closing, I want to thank Canada’s cattle producers for allowing me the privilege of representing you over the past two years. We have great leadership to carry our important messages forward and to facilitate new opportunities.

To ensure this continues, I ask that you to join me in working towards building future champions by encouraging your cattle organizations to commit to developing and implementing a program of renewal.

Encourage your neighbours, suppliers and your government representative to join us in this worthwhile endeavour because right now, the future is in your hands.

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