It’s been a few weeks since I took on the role of president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) at the annual general meeting in Ottawa. I would like to thank all of the CCA presidents that came before me for working so closely with government, which has helped to ensure our trade agendas are in synch. This relationship is a big part of the reason why I travelled with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Seoul, Korea for the March 11 announcement that Canada had reached a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea. The CCA made a Canada-Korea FTA a priority and rightly so, as Canada was facing a tariff parity gap with the U.S. under KORUS that was close to being untenable. There was added pressure from FTAs that Korea has signed with the EU and Australia.
More from the Canadian Cattlemen website: Farm groups hail field-levelling trade deal with Korea
That this trip happened just four days into my new job as CCA president is indicative of the momentum the CCA has achieved after many, many years of hard work. With government and CCA’s trade priorities aligned so very closely we are in an excellent position to push ahead on further trade deals that will benefit Canada’s beef cattle industry.
There is renewed optimism for an FTA with Japan although much work remains. More immediately on my radar is to ensure the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union is implemented in a manner that enables Canada’s beef cattle producers to derive the very significant benefits that have been negotiated. I am optimistic about the commitment to resolve long-standing technical barriers that have prevented the EU from approving Canada’s main packing plants to export to the EU. Once these issues are sorted out and full equivalency is achieved, the larger and medium-size federally inspected Canadian beef packers can begin to develop the EU market and better utilize the current quotas that have gone underfilled due to technical barriers. The EU is a lucrative market for Canada’s beef cattle producers and access should be unhindered by technical barriers.
Mandatory U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) is another issue I want to see concluded. This issue has become very politicized since the Farm Bill and we now look to the World Trade Organization (WTO) process and retaliation to bring about the resolution we seek.
Another example of government and industry collaboration is the development of a cattle price insurance program. The recent expansion of the Alberta program to the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) is good news and we appreciate the federal and provincial governments working together on this innovative program for livestock producers. Price insurance is a particular passion of mine, and of now CCA past president Martin Unrau, and CCA will continue to push federal and provincial governments to develop an effective and affordable national price and basis insurance program for cattle producers.
As it happens, all of this positive momentum comes at a time when CCA’s members are having difficulty raising enough checkoff to continue funding the good work we do to traditional levels. These are belt-tightening times for everyone and the CCA is appreciative that some of our provincial members have voted to increase checkoff despite facing a significant revenue shortfall. In my view now is not the time for our members to pull back, with the government moving on such an aggressive trade agenda.
The CCA does have a significant trade file but our focus is also on ensuring a competitive industry for the long term. Our work on a strategic five-year plan for industry continues. This has been, and continues to be, a very large undertaking for CCA staff on behalf of industry and I appreciate the effort. I am fully confident in CCA staff and their ability to incorporate crucial member and stakeholder input into a comprehensive plan that will see the industry through. The CCA has the expertise to deal with this and it is important that stakeholders have faith that their views will be represented fairly in the final plan.
The strategic plan is about industry sustainability. The CCA has done a lot of good work on sustainability outside of this plan. I feel strongly that industry should lead the conversation on sustainability with value chain members so that any directives that may come of it are practical, rooted in reality and executed in a manner that makes sense for beef cattle producers. Many of the practices producers use today are inherently sustainable and it is important that we promote this as we progress down this road.
I am excited at the opportunities that lay ahead. My involvement with the CCA goes back many years and I know the good work that the association accomplishes on behalf of cattle producers. I look forward to reporting our successes to you in this column in the months ahead. I encourage you to stay on top of CCA news by subscribing to Action News, our free biweekly newsletter, and following us on Twitter @cdncattlemen — both of which can be done on our website, which is another excellent source of information. I also want to hear from producers and encourage you to attend CCA town halls and other events or contact the office with your questions.