As I write this column, I am attending the Five Nations Beef Allliance meetings in Mexico. Cattle industry associations from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico make up the Alliance. We get together every 18 months to collaborate on common issues, such as international trade protocols, sustainability issues and environmental challenges and opportunities.
In October, the Canadian Cattlemen s Association (CCA) held its first Town Hall meeting in Prince George, B.C. in conjunction with the B.C. Cattlemen s Association (BCCA). The town hall meetings provide the opportunity for producers to meet CCA executive and managers and hear the latest reports on the many activities the CCA is involved in on behalf of Canada s 83,000 cattle producers. They also provide an opportunity for CCA to hear from our provincial members and producers directly.
The event in Prince George was well attended and provided a good opportunity to meet with producers at a grassroots level. Presentations by CCA executive and managers were well received by participants. The level of engagement from producers, many of whom are BCCA directors and industry leaders in B.C., was impressive. Sponsorship from Farm Credit Canada (FCC) enables the CCA to host town hall meetings across the country.
The CCA also launched the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) to cow-calf producers nationwide. The BIXS concept is based on the premise that an improved flow of information between producers and packers can enhance industry competitiveness. The launch marked the successful conclusion of more than two years of effort to advance a concept developed by the CCA into the BIXS program. BIXS also met its goal of opening to cow-calf producers in time for the 2011 fall calf run.
BIXS is an individual animal and carcass data information exchange system developed by the CCA with funding provided through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada s (AAFC) Agriculture Flexibility Fund. AAFC Minister Gerry Ritz officially announced the funding contribution at the CCA annual meeting in March 2011. To participate in BIXS, go to http://bixs.cattle.ca/.
There has been steady activity on the trade front over the last few months. The Canada/EU trade negotiations continued with the latest round held in Ottawa in October. The CCA has been in regular communication with our negotiators, Ministers and MP s to ensure that the importance of this negotiation to the cattle industry is clearly understood.
The CCA maintains that the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) may be the most important new trade opportunity in a generation. Europe is a huge market for beef and we currently have only a share of a small quota. Canada is seeking unlimited duty-free access and resolution of a number of technical restrictions. The small quota we currently share has been administered in a way that has made it difficult for Canadian exporters to access with predictability. We have put forward a suggested methodology change and Minister Ritz raised this issue with German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner during a recent trade mission to Germany. Minister Ritz also made clear to his German counterpart the importance of the CETA negotiations and its benefit for Canada s farmers.
On the country-of-origin labelling (COOL) issue, the CCA has been actively advancing a potential solution to U.S. industry interests and the U.S. government ahead of the public release of the WTO panel decision.
A number of important agreements and milestones have been reached. Recently, Canada reached an agreement with the U.S. to make Canadian blood meal available in the U.S. market. The agreement removes the last remaining barrier from the 2003 BSE market closure. Vietnam reopened to live breeding cattle, the Canada- Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into effect, and Canada reached a science-based technical agreement with South Korea as a step toward restoring market access for Canadian under-30-month (UTM) beef. Under the agreement, Korea agreed to commence UTM shipments by the end of 2011. We are watching the process carefully, and will advise the Canadian government to request the WTO case be reinstated, if the Korean process begins to stall. Of course the full restoration of access for beef products from cattle of all ages to top priority markets is crucial.
We remain very active in Ottawa. The CCA s Annual Fall Picnic on Parliament Hill was a huge success. Included were approximately 100 MPs and 15 Senators, MP and Senator Staff, VIP guests and cattle producers from almost every province across Canada. In addition to the discussions producers engaged in during the picnic, more than 20 meetings were held with MPs and other key influencers. Producers brought forth policy recommendations on issues including market access, suggestions for the next budget, including investment in research and market development, Growing Forward II policy suggestions and other issues.
Many of these issues were raised again when the CCA appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to discuss the issues, as well as challenges and opportunities around research and innovation in the Canadian cattle industry.
Even with all the positive news in the industry, significant challenges to our competitiveness remain. On behalf of Canadian cattle producers, the CCA remains committed to pressing for improvements to the competitiveness of the cattle and beef industries.
TravisToews ispresidentof theCanadian Cattlemen s Association