Before the federal election the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) put out a summary of policy issues important to the cattle industry. It was a crib sheet — something producers could use to grill candidates on issues that influence their bottom lines.
Now that the election is over it seems this crib sheet could be used as a report card for the next year or two. Something you could use to see how the new government is looking after your industry, and how successful the CCA is in lobbying the new Parliament. So, here’s your policy checklist for 2011.
First on any list is improved market access for Canadian beef. Forty per cent of our beef must be exported in one form or another. Thus, trade always rates high in discussions with government, especially now that the agriculture department has taken trade under its wing with the creation of the Agricultural Market Access Secretariat.
As a first move, the CCA wants more money for the secretariat. It is still too small a group to do what it must, which is undertake multiple trade negotiations.
The trade targets for this new government as defined by the CCA are:
Resolve the WTO dispute with Korea through a commercially meaningful settlement, and finalize a Canada-Korea free trade agreement. At press time the industry was once again waiting day-by-day for news of a breakthrough on this front. The Korean government has continuously sent out signals that it wants a negotiated settlement versus one imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO). So do the Canadians. Trade sources as of late April had heard the framework for an import protocol on under- 30-month beef had been worked out and only the fine details remained to be ironed out. This could be the first issue to tick off the CCA wish list but, as of late April, there was no deal. Increase the age limit for shipping beef to Japan from 21 to 30 months. Ultimately, this should be a first step toward regaining full access to this market but so far a 30-month rule looks no closer now than it did when Japan first established it. Age verification to identify 21-month supplies has been marginally successful in opening this market.
Realize the commitment of Chinese President Hu to restore access for Canadian beef and tallow.
Restore access for over-30-month beef to Mexico.
Secure access for Canadian beef to the EU within a comprehensive trade agreement. Canada has already gained access to the U.S. 20,000-tonne duty-free EU quota and is finalizing details on an additional 3,200-tonne quota in exchange for dropping its objections to the EU requirement on hormone-free beef. The next target is to modernize the hormone-free protocol and other production requirements that hinder access to the EU. A trade team has put a new protocol together which is currently being reviewed by CFIA before it is sent to the EU for approval. Obtain full access to Taiwan for beef under 30 months of age.
Get full under-30-month access to Russia with facility approvals.
U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling remains high on the list of issues facing cattle producers. The CCA and the entire trade encouraged the last government to launch a WTO trade action against U.S. COOL. Now the CCA will be asking the new Parliament to start targeting U.S. products for retaliatory duties if the WTO trade panel sides with Canada. Ideally, the CCA would target products from areas represented by Congressmen and Senators who oppose changing the COOL rule to label meat processed in the U.S. as U.S. beef.
Canada is a big market for U.S. food products. We spend $12 billion a year on U.S. fruits, vegetables and processed foods alone.
On competitive issues the CCA will be asking the new MPs to support policies and regulations based on science that don’t put Canadian cattlemen at a disadvantage to producers from competing nations.
They will also be seeking more long-term funding for applied practical research to support innovation in the cattle industry; a biofuels policy that eliminates mandated usage and tariffs on imported fuels; and regulations based on appropriate management of the real risks to the environment and food safety from farming practices.
Given the dissatisfaction with national business risk management programs that gave rise to numerous competing ad hoc provincial programs, the CCA will encourage the new Parliament to work with the provinces to bring in a national cattle price insurance program patterned after the Alberta program where government and producers share the premiums.
That’s the wish list. All that remains is to see how many items we can tick off by year end.