As I write this column, Canadians have just returned the Conservatives to office, this time with a majority. I’m looking forward to the stability a majority government will provide. By the time this column appears, the prime minister will almost certainly have named his cabinet and we will be busy again outlining our priorities, policies and vision for the Canadian cattle industry to this government.
Trade issues remain a top priority for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). The preliminary WTO report will have been issued by now to the parties disclosing the panel’s views on the country-of-origin labelling (COOL) case. After the panel report is received, we anticipate ramping up our advocacy efforts on a number of fronts. In the meantime, our advocacy work in Washington, D.C. continues along with discussions around possible remedies and solutions.
We are continuing to press for an acceptable beef access settlement with South Korea. The WTO panel is close to issuing their report, however we remain hopeful a negotiated settlement can be achieved in the meantime. A significant amount of resources have been committed to this priority in recent months, yet to date we do not have access. South Korea has been a very valuable market for the U.S. beef industry during the last 12 months, and Canada must procure similar access to maintain our competitiveness.
Technical negotiations are continuing with China based on the agreement signed by Prime Minister Harper and Chinese President Hu Jintao almost a year ago. While negotiations have been active, progress has been glacial. Beef trade experts believe China could become the most valuable market in Asia over the next few years.
The CCA continues to press for increased funding and emphasis on research and innovation. We were pleased with Minister Ritz’s announcement of $2.5 million in funds from the Agri-Innovations Program for the Beef Science Cluster at our Annual General Meeting in March. As well, we continue to make research and innovation one of our key priorities at the Growing Forward consultations. The long-term competitiveness of our industry will depend in part on our ability to improve efficiency with innovative solutions to challenges.
For instance, significant investment is needed to renew and reinvigorate agriculture research to a more meaningful level with investments focusing on research outcomes that address industry’s priorities and also on developing critical research capacity. This includes having skilled people working both within industry and in research institutions. This will support industry advancement as access to comprehensive knowledge base is particularly critical in times of competitive challenges.
Enhanced long-term funding for applied agricultural production research is needed as well to rebuild research infrastructure and expertise to a level that can support innovation within the Canadian agriculture sector.
One of the CCA’s main priorities continues to be improving our regulatory environment. Regulations need to be designed and, importantly, implemented in a way that puts the competitiveness of the Canadian agriculture sector on equal footing with our global competitors. Due to the highly integrated nature of the Canadian and U.S. cattle and beef industries, as well as our high level of export dependency, the Canadian beef industry must have access to and be able to utilize the most effective and efficient production tools and practices in order to remain competitive. Canada is also a relatively small market so to attract new technologies and products we must have a favourable regulatory system that supports innovation. Currently the additional investment required to gain approval for products in Canada is often difficult to justify given the smaller size of our market and numerous regulatory hurdles. Specific emphasis continues to be placed upon harmonizing the Canadian approval process for veterinary drugs with the U.S. to ensure that applications from prospective companies are dealt with in a manner that limits duplicative research and the investments required to gain approval for their products in Canada. Improved access to new veterinary drugs and livestock production products will enhance both productivity and animal health and enable Canadian cattle producers to be positioned more competitively relative to our global competitors.
I recently had an opportunity to review a study the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development prepared on agriculture government support programs in OECD countries. After analyzing government support in each country, the report concluded with several key recommendations as well as a ministerial communiqué. Included in the communiqué were the following points:
A renewed emphasis should be given to innovation, efficient resource use and productivity growth. Bioenergy development should be encouraged based on economically and environmentally sustainable models.
Trade is essential in ensuring sustainable and reliable flow of food and raw materials.
The issues identified in the communiqué are of paramount importance for the Canadian cattle industry and key priorities for the CCA. On behalf of Canadian cattle producers we will continue to press for improvements to our competitiveness both on the trade front and at home in our regulatory and business environment.
Of course, another important issue was developing at the time of this writing: the flooding around Lake Manitoba. We would anticipate that AgriRecovery’s response will be required. The CCA will be monitoring the situation and working with the Manitoba Beef Producers to ensure the right approach is taken.
TravisToews ispresidentof theCanadian Cattlemen’s Association