|In This Issue ...
The CCA in Ottawa
The CCA got down to business during its annual general meeting in Ottawa March 22 thru 26 and not all of it from the confines of a boardroom. The CCA’s President Brad Wildeman, Vice President Travis Toews, and directors Martin Unrau of Manitoba, Curtis Royal of Ontario and Kevin Antworth of New Brunswick met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The meeting, which included a photo op, afforded the CCA the opportunity to communicate a number of points of critical importance to the industry directly to the PM.
This messaging was also delivered at the CCA’s VIP reception on Parliament Hill, which drew a large crowd including about 90 MPs and senators. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the $6 million in funds for the Beef Science Cluster during the CCA’s foreign trade committee meeting and John Masswohl, the CCA’s director of government relations & international affairs, was named in the Top 60 Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy feature of the March 24 edition of Embassy – Canada’s Foreign Policy Newsweekly.
National Voluntary Beef Cattle Biosecurity Standard
Producers will soon have the opportunity to help shape what will become a national voluntary biosecurity standard for the beef cattle industry - and all without having to leave the farm. In the coming weeks many producers will be contacted and asked to participate in an on-farm consultation. The consultation will allow producers to share from the comfort of the kitchen table or farm office their current animal health related practices with trained personnel who understand the importance of animal health to the industry.
A series of questions will be conducted as part of the estimated two-hour consultation which will serve to benchmark current animal health practices, enabling the initiative to move forward based on informed discussion. The consultation is the first step of a four part process to developing a national standard for the industry. The intent is to develop a standard that will be cost-effective for producers to meet while also contributing to the profitable marketing of safe healthy food by addressing risks pertaining to animal health and in some cases food safety.
The national consultation will be conducted on a sample population of producers from feedlots and farm or ranch operations of varying size. Results will be considered in aggregate form only.
The initiative is being undertaken by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the CCA, with funding being provided under Agriculture Canada’s Growing Forward. Assisting the CCA and the CFIA in this initiative is the Beef Biosecurity Advisory Group, comprised of representatives of industry, AAFC, provincial governments and academia.
A standard has already been developed for the poultry industry and biosecurity standards are in various early stages of development for the swine and dairy industries.
The beef cattle biosecurity standard is expected to be completed by June 2011, and will evolve on an ongoing basis.
The scoop on changes to how CFIA reports BSE
The last case of BSE certainly caused a flap in the industry, even though it’s not unexpected to find additional cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy as Canada’s effective control measures eliminate the disease from the national herd. What was different this time around was the way the Feb. 25 event was announced, as it was the first case to fall under a new reporting policy announced by the CFIA last August.
The CFIA revised how it reports online for disease detections in farmed animals to provide a more comprehensive view of Canada’s animal health status. The intent was to standardize the agency’s approach to BSE with other federally reportable diseases, said George Shaw, vice-president of public affairs, CFIA.
There are about 30 reportable diseases and the CFIA doesn’t issue a release on any of those in real time unless there is a significant human or animal health risk, so the agency wanted to put BSE in the same category as the other ones, he said.
The new reporting process still sees key trading partners, governments and some industry stakeholders notified in real time of confirmed cases of BSE and moves the public notification to a new, animal health disease report updated monthly on the agency website.
Although an information bulletin explaining why the agency was moving in this direction and what changes it would entail was posted on the CFIA website last August, it wasn’t until Feb. 25 that the new process was put to the test.
It’s a given that there will be hiccups when implementing new systems and this new policy was no exception. While trading partners, including the appropriate authorities in Korea, were notified right away, industry notification on Feb. 25 seemingly wasn’t as broad as it had been under the former process. The result was that many in the industry were left out of the loop while those unaware of the reporting changes assumed the CFIA would post a notification on their website as per usual. R-Calf, meanwhile, issued a release flinging accusations that Canada was hiding BSE cases.
Looking back on the Feb. 25 experience, the CFIA said that some fine-tuning needs to happen around what information is shared and when. Back in 2003, the process involved the agency issuing a release, which later evolved into a short notice that would go up on its website, a document shared with industry and trading partners to give them a heads-up.
The agency didn’t do that on Feb. 25 because the public piece was moved to the new monthly report that captures all animal health diseases in one spot.
Going forward, the agency will continue to fine tune its new reporting policy. When future cases of BSE are confirmed the CFIA will still issue a short summary with all the pertinent details of the case in real time to key trading partners and governments, and intends to alert a broader base of industry stakeholders than reached on Feb. 25. The factual paragraph is intended to ensure governments, trading partners and industry stakeholders have the same information.
If industry gets a call from media or stakeholders in the interim, they will be equipped with the information to deal with it.
Notification to the OIE is done on a six-month reporting cycle. Shaw said Canada has reached a point of credibility under the controlled-risk scenario that its not obliged to do immediate reporting on incidents of BSE.
One of the recommendations to come out of the National Beef Value Chain Roundtable in Calgary March 16-17 was that the Government of Canada announce all future cases of BSE in a timely fashion with appropriate information.