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CCA Reports – for Mar. 9, 2009

Brad

Wildeman is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

CCA kept up the busy pace as staff and directors attended several significant meetings on both sides of the border. From January 27-30, we attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) annual meeting and convention in Phoenix. On February 3-4, we participated in the Beef Value Chain Roundtable (BVCRT) winter meeting in Ottawa.

Both meetings provided great opportunities for interaction, discussion, networking and progress. With many hot issues facing Canada’s beef and cattle industry, meeting face-to-face with our trading partners and government is invaluable.

BVCRT winter meeting

Great progress has been made on the creation of the new export market access secretariat. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz is now moving quickly to implement it. We firmly believe that this major undertaking by the government of Canada will play a pivotal role in re-establishing markets lost to BSE. It’s the single most important thing the government can do for our industry’s long-term success.

An in-depth discussion on regulatory reform of veterinary drugs was also at the top of the agenda. The bottom line — the government needs to respond to the dire need for improvement of the approval mechanisms for products needed by the industry, particularly the extensive process surrounding veterinary drug approvals.

Access to veterinary drugs in a timely, competitive manner is important to narrowing the competitiveness gap — especially with the U. S. The regulatory process must support innovation and access to competitively priced new technologies. We need a process that ensures access to current drugs in a predictable and timely manner for the Canadian industry.

A new approach presented by the BVCRT suggests that Health Canada review drugs submitted for registration in Canada within 90 days, at which time they would either be approved or denied. Should the approval be denied, within that same timeframe a written response detailing the reason for non-approval would be released. As a requirement, the drugs must already be registered in countries with equivalent approval standards.

As I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s a huge gap between what veterinary drugs are available in Canada versus the U. S., including the cost. It’s important that the Canadian industry accesses necessary medications at competitive prices to the U. S. market. A streamlined drug approval process would help with this (as I outlined earlier). In the interim, the “Own Use Import” (OUI) policy provides access to competitively priced inputs. The BVCRT recommended that until a new permit process is in place, and proves workable, the OUI should remain in place for U. S. Food and Drug Administration licensed products — but not for “Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients.”

In addition to discussing the betterment of veterinary drug approvals, the BVCRT looked at regulatory reform for managing food safety issues (such as the use of new food additives), E. coli, the enhanced feed ban (and its subsequent costs) and plant approval challenges and their impact on the availability of feed grains. It was agreed by all that more work needs to be done on these issues in future meetings.

Throughout all discussions at the BVCRT meetings, it was stressed that our industry’s future sustainability depends on four key points, and progress should be measured towards improvement in these areas:

1. Fair access to markets

2. Cost competitiveness

3. Access to innovation

4. The ability to respond to change

NCBA annual meeting and convention

As expected, many of our discussions with our U. S. counterparts looked at country-of-origin labelling (COOL). Many U. S. cattle producers see that COOL causes more problems than it should solve. Although a number of people supported COOL at first (mainly because it sounds like the right thing to do), faced with the extra costs, requirements, etc. plus the very questionable reaction in the marketplace, we expect them to hesitate on implementation. For instance, based on our own research, plus research from U. S. groups such as the National Grocers’ Association, consumers find that food labelling isn’t a critical factor when deciding on a beef purchases.

For industries on both sides of the border, COOL places unnecessary costs on every element of the value chain. It also places other proteins at a competitive advantage, as they are not subject to the same labelling requirements. In addition, with the implementation of the U. S. specified risk material (SRM) feed ban, costs will increase further alongside COOL. American producers have seen the costs and regulatory burden that the SRM ban has placed on the Canadian beef industry, and were anxious to have us share our experiences with our feed ban. When the U. S. feed ban is implemented, it’s critical that their ban doesn’t create a “non-tariff” trade barrier for cattle or beef imports.

On the trade front, and another important outcome, the NCBA adopted a significant resolution seeking changes in Japan’s acceptance of U. S. beef from under 21 months to under 30 months. Presently, the U. S. demands full access to the Japanese market, based on criteria issued by the World Organization for Animal Health. The NCBA resolution will now go forward to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, marking a change in their trade negotiating position.

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