Volume 6 Issue 1 • November 7, 2011

In This Issue ...


Sustainable beef production focus of Five Nations Beef Alliance

Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) representatives, led by President Travis Toews, joined cattle producer organizations from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. along with the Mexican hosts recently for the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA) conference.  In addition to two full days of formal meetings, the itinerary provided the opportunity to meet with Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture, tour Mexican cattle operations and deepen relationships with counterparts from the other alliance countries.

One of the major discussion areas was around 'sustainable beef production' and what this terminology means. The conclusion was that in the absence of any formal national or international definitions of sustainable beef production, it is incumbent on the FNBA to fill that void. The FNBA agreed to take a non-competitive, holistic and balanced approach to sustainability by focusing equally on three aspects of beef production systems: environmental, social and economic.

Longstanding areas of common interest for the FNBA have been working together as a force in favour of liberalization of global beef markets and ensuring that countries make animal health and food safety decisions affecting beef trade on the basis of science and proper risk assessments. These fundamental principles were re-affirmed. 

A new element of this FNBA conference was inclusion of the FNBA Young Ranchers' Program whereby eight young ranchers from the five nations spent the week as full participants in the FNBA activities and as observers at the conference.  The Canadian participants in the program were selected from the CCA's Cattlemen's Young Leaders (CYL) development program. The CYL program was developed to provide industry specific training and mentorship to beef enthusiasts by creating educational opportunities and including them in various initiatives undertaken by the cattle sector.

The conference concluded with the adoption of a joint FNBA principle statement on points including market access and trade policy, animal health, Country of Origin Labeling, animal identification, animal welfare and environment. To read the statement, click here. Canada will host the next FNBA conference in September 2012.


CCA attended fall meetings in Alberta, Saskatchewan

CanFax Market BriefsThe CCA was on hand for the 2011 fall meetings for producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association and the Alberta Beef Producers hold a series of district or zone meetings annually to update producers on association activities and to develop policy ahead of their respective annual meetings. Policy passed at local meetings needs to gain support of the larger meetings to become official policy. 

CCA Ottawa staff John Masswohl and Ryder Lee along with CCA Calgary staff attended many of these meetings. The meetings provide the CCA with an opportunity to update producers on what their check-off funds are going toward, to reconnect with producer concerns and to aid in policy development through providing information on current CCA policy and activities. 

The meetings have generally reflected the positive current market prices. Questions about national lobbying and international priorities were few. Debates and questions about traceability, check-off levels and whether Canada's supply management system is hindering international trade opportunities with the European Union and Asia were the most consistent discussion items.


CCA raises EU barriers with House Standing Committee

The CCA appeared before the House Standing Committee on International Trade on October 27 to discuss the issues around the Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on behalf of the Canadian cattle industry. John Masswohl, the CCA's Director, Government and International Relations, appeared before the committee in Ottawa via videoconference from Calgary in between presentations to members of Alberta Beef Producers at their fall meetings across the province.

With annual beef consumption in the EU at approximately 8 million tonnes, the CETA may represent the most significant opportunity in a generation to create new market access for Canadian beef exports. Unfortunately, Canada ships very little beef to Europe due to the layers of tariff and technical barriers that prevent Canadian beef from realizing its potential in the EU market, Masswohl told the committee.

The CCA strongly supports the CETA negotiations. However, our support of the final agreement will depend on whether it provides meaningful access for Canadian beef. "In our view, achieving meaningful access will require that the many layers of tariff and technical barriers be addressed in entirety," he stated.

Speaking to the tariff situation, Masswohl explained that the EU maintains a prohibitively high tariff on beef imports. The most-favoured-nation (MFN) duty rate (the rate established under the WTO) is prohibitively high at 12.8 per cent of the value plus an additional amount that ranges from 2,211 to 3,041 Euros per tonne, depending on the cut. This works out to about a 140 per cent tariff. As a result virtually no trade can take place at this tariff rate.

Whenever the EU has relaxed or eliminated the tariff in the past, they have done so only up to a limited quota amount, referred to as a Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ). There are currently two small TRQs that are open to Canadian beef and other suppliers of high quality grain fed beef. One is for 11,500 tonnes at a 20 per cent rate of duty, the other is for 21,500 tonnes at 0 per cent duty. The 21,500 tonne 0 per cent TRQ was recently created as compensation for the so-called EU 'hormone ban.' This is expected to rise to 48,200 tonnes by mid-2012 pending the fulfillment of some conditions.

As these existing quotas are extremely small in relation to the import demand, a grey market has developed where speculator companies obtain quota allocations and then re-sell their allocation to actual importers. This practice has become a new de-facto tariff in the neighbourhood of 17 to 20 per cent. "We are therefore very concerned that any agreement under CETA to create a TRQ smaller than EU import demand will have this de-facto tariff effect. The Canadian beef sector is not interested in perpetuating this problem in CETA and therefore we are seeking unlimited duty free access in the CETA," Masswohl stated.

Among the non-tariff technical issues raised, Masswohl noted that any beef sold in the EU must come from animals raised without the use of growth promotants. This is often referred to as the 'hormone ban' even though it also bans other non-hormone growth promotants such as beta-agonists that are safely approved and widely used in Canada. Nevertheless, the Canadian beef sector can accept this EU condition as long as real meaningful market access makes it worthwhile.

The protocol for proving that Canadian cattle are in compliance with this EU requirement needs to be modernized. At a minimum Canada needs to obtain improvements that are already utilized by U.S. cattle producers to raise U.S. beef for the EU market.

It is clear that there are significant challenges in this negotiation, but we feel that the rewards are worth the effort and the objectives we have outlined are achievable.


House committee hearings in full swing

CCA President Travis Toews was in Ottawa last Thursday to appear before two committee hearings: the House Standing Committee on Finance annual pre-budget hearing and the House Standing Committee on Agriculture hearing on Innovation in the Growing Forward II suite of programs.

The CCA's main message was that research and innovation funding in Canada needs to be improved and increased in order to improve Canadian competitiveness and to be able to respond to challenges of tomorrow.  Industry's recognition of the importance and return on investing in research is shown by the 150 per cent increase in industry investment in recent years. The need to increase funding of market development and to allow the mature grain ethanol industry to compete for feed grains in the open market were also part of the briefs delivered.

This is the fourth opportunity in two weeks that CCA has appeared before Government of Canada committees to discuss issues of importance to Canadian cattle producers.


Antimicrobial use and resistance in the beef industry

The Antimicrobial Stewardship in Canadian Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Conference was held last week in Toronto. Representatives of the medical community, research institutions, the veterinary profession, and livestock industries met to share the most current North American knowledge and concerns pertaining to this issue in humans, pets, livestock and meat. The results of a recently completed study of antimicrobial use and resistance in the beef industry were presented. This collaborative study involved researchers from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Feedlot Health Management Services, with industry check-off funding from the Beef Cattle Research Council and Alberta Beef Producers. Click here to read the study highlights.

CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Ryder Lee, Reynold Bergen
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Tracy Sakatch

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The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is the national voice for nearly 83,000 Canadian beef cattle producers.

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