I am always heartened when I see the payoff of our lobbying efforts on behalf of Canada’s cattle producers. Last month it came in the form of attendance at the CCA’s fall event for members of Parliament, senators and people of influence in our industry.
The CCA Country Picnic on Parliament Hill, held Sept. 28, saw the CCA resume its engagement with MPs following a lengthy parliamentary recess. More than 150 MPs and 30 senators were among the 400 in attendance. The fall picnic is our way of acknowledging the significant efforts of those who work on important industry files and to let them know that we are grateful for their ongoing attention to our industry.
It’s also a time to remind them that our collective efforts have not been in vain. Stabilizing beef demand combined with contracting global, and particularly North American, inventories are strengthening market fundamentals and have led to higher cattle prices. Indeed, 2010 may be the first year in many where there could be a measure of profitability in the cow-calf sector of the industry.
Economists and analysts generally agree that as the global economy strengthens, beef demand will rise, and with tight supplies, better years for the cattle industry lie ahead. Nonetheless, we cannot become complacent as there continues to be a number of issues at play that are affecting our competitiveness as an industry. This was at the heart of the CCA messaging delivered at the event.
The fall picnic provided the opportunity for 15 CCA and provincial cattle association representatives to interact with key lawmakers and update them on our various policy needs. The CCA, along with provincial cattle reps, held nearly 20 private meetings with individual MPs to discuss issues in greater detail. This included a meeting between myself, CCA vice-president Martin Unrau and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
The theme of the messaging from cattle producers is that while there is some optimism out there, and cattle prices are improving, progress is needed on a number of national industry issues to realize the full potential for the Canadian cattle industry in the coming years.
We complimented Minister Ritz and International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, regarding their efforts on market access barriers and identified our top priorities for further progress in the year ahead. Market access gains are still needed in the important beef markets of Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Europe, China and Taiwan.
While we are encouraged by the recent full access agreement in principal with China, efforts must continue to hold the Chinese to the agreement, and negotiate in good faith the technical issues that will dictate the terms of that access.
In recent months we have worked closely with Agriculture Canada and Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the COOL WTO case. We have been pleased in the collaborative approach the government team has taken with industry, and I believe this approach contributed the strong effort the Canadian team delivered in Geneva during the first oral hearing in September. If we win the case, a strong communication effort will be required in the U.S. by industry and government to achieve a revision to the U.S. legislation.
Another much discussed issue of competitiveness is the cost to Canada’s beef-processing companies to dispose of specified risk materials or SRM. This cost has arisen from the implementation of the enhanced feed ban.
In our view, this issue will require a multifaceted approach. In the short term, costs of disposal will require continued assistance from government to keep the playing field somewhat level with American processors. We were pleased that the 2010 budget included funding to dispose of SRM, and ask that the program be continued in 2011. While only a temporary solution, it buys time for Canadian processors and renderers to implement technologies aimed at reducing SRM volumes and using it in a beneficial manner. The ultimate goal is to harmonize our regulations with those of the U.S.
While I stand by our view that 2010 is a better year than most Canadian cattle producers have seen for some time, there are some areas of the country not realizing this situation. As well, there remains considerable volatility in both the market and our currency.
Given these gaps and volatility, producers require access to risk management tools that are simple, transparent, and market driven. We reiterated for our guests our desire for the development of a national price and basis insurance program for all producers. We also highlighted the need for ongoing funding for research and development, a point that we view as neccessary to ensure our industry remains competitive and sustainable in the long term.
The fall picnic was the third time in as many months that the CCA had the opportunity to discuss industry needs with top-level government officials and policy-makers. We look forward to continuing to work on your behalf by bringing key issues to the forefront.
TravisToews ispresidentof theCanadian Cattlemen’s Association
The fall picnic provided the opportunity for 15 CCA and provincial cattle association representatives to interact with key lawmakers