Travis Toews is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
I’ve been on the job as president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for a number of weeks now and I would like to say that I’m honoured to serve the folks who make up this diverse and challenging industry.
The Canadian cattle industry has had more than its share of challenges in recent years and while progress is being made, we know from recent experience that we can take nothing for granted.
While we continue to make progress on the market access front, important work remains. Country-of-origin labelling (COOL) legislation in the U.S. continues to reduce the competitiveness of U.S. packers in purchasing Canadian cattle which has resulted in wider basis levels for Canadian cattle. The CCA continues to provide evidence of industry injury to the WTO COOL legal effort and is assisting the Canadian government in developing its case which will likely be heard by the panel this summer. Advocacy efforts in the U.S. are also continuing as we work with like-minded groups in communicating our messages to legislators and industry officials.
The WTO case continues against Korea with both Canada and Korea submitting their arguments in this precedent-setting case. We continue to work with the Government of Canada as it presses Japan and Mexico for increased beef access. Market access work is also continuing in Russia, Taiwan and China, as well as other markets where access is critical to maximize Canadian carcass values.
The CCA continues to provide input into the Canada/EU free trade negotiations that are currently underway. We are completing a study that will estimate the potential of that market to the Canadian industry. Based on early indications, it appears the EU could become one of our most valuable markets with an ambitious negotiation outcome.
Specified Risk Materials (SRM) disposal costs continue to disadvantage Canadian packers on over-30-month (OTM) cattle. This increased regulatory cost has left Canadian packers uncompetitive relative to U.S. processors and some classes of slaughter cows undervalued. Left unaddressed this regulatory cost will force more plant closures in Canada. As producers we welcome U.S. bids on our cattle, but it is unacceptable to once again become dependent on U.S. capacity in order to process our weekly kill.
In the 2010 Federal Budget, the federal government earmarked $25 million to help temporarily offset the cost of OTM SRM disposal and a further $40 million to assist processors and renderers find and implement beneficial use technologies. This federal funding announcement was welcome news, and the CCA is participating in a working group tasked with finding ways to reduce the SRM volume and, where possible, use it in a beneficial manner. The ultimate answer is to harmonize our regulation with the U.S. The CCA will also continue to work on other regulatory impediments such as those that limit our access to competitively priced animal health products and new feed grain variety registrations.
Work to develop a National Cattle Price Insurance program continues. The CCA believes an effective and affordable price and basis insurance program would provide producers with an important tool to manage their business risk.
One factor that has limited production improvements in the cattle industry is the absence of production and carcass valuation information flowing up and down the supply chain. In response to this deficiency, the CCA launched the Beef InfoXchange System or BIXS project in 2009. The BIXS is an information system that will allow all segments of the production chain to share production information.
The BIXS has the potential to provide all sectors of the production chain with the data necessary for major production efficiency improvements in the area of genetics and animal health protocols, as well as other management practices. The BIXS will also provide feedlots with a tool to assist in selecting cattle with specific genetics or production protocols and primary producers will have the ability to differentiate their cattle. We will keep you posted on the progress of BIXS.
At our recent annual meeting the following resolutions were passed giving direction to the board in the year ahead.
That the CCA continue to explore options for mitigating the use of dentition over age verification;
That the CCA seek an extension to the federal emergency cash advance for another year to September 2011.
That the CCA investigate the need to develop a life cycle analysis of the Canadian Cattle Industry. And that the CCA recommend the existing methodology for conducting life cycle analysis and carbon footprinting be reviewed with a view to developing a global standard.
That the CCA encourage Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to shift its policy, research and programming focus on to the effective and efficient use of natural resources in a responsible and sustainable manner rather than just greenhouse gas production.
That the CCA recommend that the Canadian Beef Grading Agency approve the grade colour standard for dark cutters and monitor the consistency of the percentage of dark cutters over time.