In November, Canadian Cattlemen s Association (CCA) representatives met with officials from Prime Minister Stephen Harper s Office to discuss a number of important issues around competitiveness. Country-of-origin labelling (COOL) and Product of Canada rules were among the items discussed. On COOL, we requested the Prime Minister s continued assistance in anticipation of the public release of the WTO report November 18. We shared our position that Product of Canada rules must be changed to coincide with our U.S. solution, that the country of processing should confer origin.
We discussed the importance of completing the Korean Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and thanked the Prime Minister for his engagement on the Korean beef access file. We shared our appreciation for the Prime Minister s engagement with Japan, and requested this level of engagement continue as Japan reconsiders its approach to domestic BSE testing, which is a prerequisite for broader beef access from BSE controlled-risk countries. The CCA also raised the issue of Japan possibly joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and with that, the necessity of Canada joining the TPP. To get accepted into the TPP, Canada would most likely be required to allow access for dairy and poultry imports.
In October, myself and CCA representatives joined cattle producer organizations from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. along with the Mexican hosts for the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA) conference. In addition to two full days of formal meetings, the itinerary provided the opportunity to meet with Mexico s Secretary of Agriculture, tour Mexican cattle operations and deepen relationships with counterparts from the other alliance countries. During the meeting with Mexico s Secretary of Agriculture, I pointed out the importance of trade rules based on sound science, and the inconsistency with Mexico s approach to beef from cattle over 30 months of age from Canada.
Longstanding areas of common interest for the FNBA have been working together as a force in favour of liberalization of global beef markets and ensuring that countries make animal health and food safety decisions affecting beef trade on the basis of science and proper risk assessments. These fundamental principles were reaffirmed.
The CCA was on hand for the 2011 fall meetings for producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta. This busy meeting season provides the CCA with an opportunity to update producers on what their checkoff funds are going toward, to reconnect with producer concerns and to aid in policy development through providing information on current CCA policy and activities.
We appeared before the House Standing Committee on International Trade in late October to discuss the issues around the Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) on behalf of the Canadian cattle industry.
With annual beef consumption in the EU at approximately eight million tonnes, the CETA may represent the most significant opportunity in a generation to create new market access for Canadian beef exports. Unfortunately, Canada ships very little beef to Europe due to the layers of tariff and technical barriers that prevent Canadian beef from realizing its potential in the EU market.
While the CCA strongly supports the CETA negotiations, our support of the final agreement will depend on whether it provides meaningful access for Canadian beef. In our view, achieving meaningful access will require that the many layers of tariff and technical barriers be addressed in entirety.
I was in Ottawa to appear before two committee hearings: the House Standing Committee on Finance annual pre-budget hearing and the House Standing Committee on Agriculture hearing on Innovation in the Growing Forward II suite of programs.
The CCA s main message was that research and innovation funding in Canada needs to be improved and increased in order to improve Canadian competitiveness and to be able to respond to challenges of tomorrow. Industry s recognition of the importance and return on investing in research is shown by the 150 per cent increase in industry investment in recent years. The need to increase funding of market development and to allow the mature grain ethanol industry to compete for feed grains in the open market were also part of the briefs delivered.
We were pleased to see that the funding details of the $50 million Agricultural Innovation Program announced in Budget 2011 include a non-repayable funding stream to assist and support knowledge creation and innovation development in the agriculture sector.
The Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream is one of two funding streams available under the program. Of particular interest to the applied research community, the Knowledge Creation and Transfer funding stream will support projects that facilitate national value-chain development such as market research and business planning, as well as the research leading to the development of new products, technologies and processes.
Applied research is vital to the industry s competitiveness through developing more efficient and environmentally sound production practices, and ensuring consumer confidence through food safety and beef quality.
At this time I wish the readers of this column a very meaningful and enjoyable Christmas season. 2011 has been a busy and productive year for the CCA and we look forward to continuing our work in 2012, with a goal of improving the competitiveness of the beef cattle industry on behalf of Canadian cattle producers.
TravisToews ispresidentof theCanadian Cattlemen s Association