Brad Wildeman is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
It’s become increasingly apparent that our once level, competitive footing with the United States has evaporated. In our single-minded quest to do everything imaginable to re-establish trust with our customers, we’ve lost our ability to compete in the North American cattle industry.
The bottom line is that if we don’t regain a competitive balance for our processing, feed and exporting industries, these stakeholders will fade away and our U.S. competitors will simply swallow up our industry. The discrepancy in the competitiveness levels between our two countries will affect our entire beef value chain; every element of our industry is far too intrinsically linked to have one sector in serious circumstance without causing ripple effects to the others.
If not corrected, we will see cattle being sold at U.S. Midwest prices, minus all the freight and regulatory costs (resulting from testing, for example) to get them down there. Returns to the cow-calf producer will always be significantly lower than what a U.S. cow-calf producer is receiving. This will make it very difficult to sustain even a viable cow-calf sector.
Making the Government of Canada aware and working together
As was discussed in the recent fall meeting of the Beef Value Chain Roundtable (BVCRT), working with the Government of Canada is the only way that Canada’s beef cattle industry will see relief from our current, stringent regulatory burdens.
Currently, there are no national effective disaster relief or cattle price insurance and basis programs in place. Provinces “go it alone” in an attempt to save their industry; but in a country where we’re all connected, the provincial-specific programs can only go so far.
We believe a three-pronged approach needs to be implemented when natural disasters occur — immediate cash assistance for producers to buy feed or move cattle to areas where feed is available; tax deferral for producers who sell their cattle due to these disasters, but plan to replace them in the future, and assistance to rehabilitate their forages after the disaster has ended.
The CCA is closely following development of a national cattle price and basis insurance program. We continue to lobby aggressively for development of a national price and basis insurance program that is effective and affordable, in collaboration with governments and industry.
We also continue to advocate for changes to other Business Risk Management (BRM) Programs to make them effective tools for the cattle industry.
Mandatory country-of-origin labelling (mCOOL) has hit the entire industry hard — everyone feels the economic impacts. However, the feeding industry is uniquely affected as mCOOL restrictions present a new challenge with cattle sent to the U. S. for feeding, but brought back into Canada for slaughter and packing.
The CCA continues its fight against this unfair trade barrier to Canadian beef and we remain resolute and unwavering that the Government of Canada should request initiation of a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel against mCOOL as soon as possible.
In the wake of BSE in 2003, Canada’s subsequent enhanced feed ban went above and beyond the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) regulations. This was done, at the time, with the expectation that such regulations would better, and more quickly, reposition us to recover from BSE. This has not proven true and we struggle even more today with our feed ban.
Not only is it too stringent, it will not be harmonized with the U.S.’s feed ban in the foreseeable future. The situation is exacerbated further with a lack of international markets to sell into, plus the worldwide recession. Closures of major packing plants throughout Canada have already occurred and unless things change, we can only expect more.
Setting goals and moving forward
One of the CCA’s top priorities is to re-establish lost markets. Our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz, appears to be on the same page. It’s encouraging to see the initiatives he has taken with various trade missions. Minister Ritz is open and responsive to recommendations put forth by the CCA — the most recent example of which is the quick creation and implementation of the Agricultural Market Access Secretariat.
Second, we need to reduce the regulatory burdens and costs brought on by BSE; with the removal of specified risk materials under the enhanced feed ban being a prime example.
Third, the current suite of business risk management programs needs drastic improvement. It’s to the point right now where people don’t want to enter the industry and they don’t want to stay in it either, without proper support systems in place to help a producer when his business hits a snag.
Finally, we need to adopt new technologies to move our industry forward. An abundance of cutting-edge initiatives are out there — and we need them to help us stay on the cutting edge.
With the anticipation of another election, this is the best opportunity to make sure your member of Parliament (MP) knows the key issues of the cattle industry. I strongly urge you to contact and tell them how to move our industry forward.
Just a reminder — it’s a lot easier now to stay up to date on the latest developments on any of these issues, when you sign up for CCA’s new Action News service — it’s free. Subscribe on our website at www.cattle.ca.