Several factors are contributing to a lack of competitiveness in the cattle feeding and beef processing sectors today. Left unchecked, greater numbers of cattle will be fed and slaughtered in the U.S. and increasing quantities of beef will be imported into Canada. A high Canadian dollar exacerbates these problems, necessitating swift action.
- Given that food production is a necessity for life, Canadian climate change policy and tools should not add to food costs.
- Remove the prohibition on using SRM meat and bone meal as fertilizer as a way to restore value for the SRMs.
- Traceability should not impede commerce. Regulating additional costs to producers will put industry at greater disadvantage.
- Ensure Canada’s approval process for products (veterinary/pharmaceutical, pesticides, biologics, new forage and grain varieties, etc.) are as or more efficient than our international competitors such as the U.S. and Australia.
- Ensure enforcement by regulators is commensurate with consequences of non-compliance (eg: fines for lost CCIA tags; high value meat removal around spinal cord).
Updated for 2019, the document, ‘CCA Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gases in Beef Production in Canada,’ contains several recommendations to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of Canadian beef production:
- further invest in research programming through the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and other research funding organizations that support research, innovation and knowledge transfer regarding practices that support improvements in productivity and reduce the environmental footprint of beef production.
- maintain and restore critical University-based and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research capacity and infrastructure to ensure ongoing delivery of research programming aligned with industry priorities.
Enhancing Producer Resiliency
- develop clear triggers and reference materials for the AgriRecovery program.
- improve hay and forage insurance across the country by implementing the recommendations made by the Federal Provincial/Territorial Forage Task Team.
- invest in agriculture water management infrastructure; examples may include supporting the construction of improved irrigation systems and flood structures such as dams/storages or outlets.
- align with a key recommendation in Senate Canada's December 2018 'Feast or Famine' report to support the creation and further development of payment for ecosystem services (PES) programs that will provide incentives for best land and water management practices to conserve critical agricultural land, improve environmental health, and build resiliency into the agriculture sector.
Mitigating GHG Emissions
- invest in research focused on forage quality, feed additives, animal genetics and animal health as outlined by the BCRC Research Strategy.
- invest in research to better understand food waste causes in Canada and enhance communication efforts to reduce food waste at the consumer level.
- develop and support agriculture focused conservation and stewardship programs and initiatives that support the conservation of healthy rangelands and riparian areas.
Supporting National and International Climate Change Dialogue and Action
- support the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) through AAFC and Environment and Climate Change Canada staff participation and project funding.
- support and engagement in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and the Global Agenda Towards Sustainable Livestock.
Scientific Measuring and Monitoring
- support the scientific measuring and monitoring of the GHG footprint of Canadian beef production through continued investment in the Farm Environmental Management Survey, the Census of Agriculture and the enhancement of existing and emerging precision measurement technologies to ensure robust data sets that enable GHG monitoring.
- support the development of global GHG monitoring methodologies through the Livestock Environmental Assessment Partnership (LEAP) program by offering the participation of AAFC research scientists as technical advisors as well as financial contributions.
Through responsible stewardship of Canada’s natural resources, the Canadian beef industry will continue to contribute to the growth of the green economy in Canada. The ability to do so will be contingent on successful adaption and resiliency to climate change, as farmers are often the first impacted by severe weather conditions. Recommendations for investment to enable adaptation, build resiliency and reduce the GHG footprint of beef production while enabling economic growth of the industry are summarized above.
Ability to Sell Canadian Beef Products for a Reasonable Return
International market access barriers and the post-recession economy are compounding the impact of the high cost of operating in Canada. Realizing new trade agreements and full restoration of access for beef products from cattle of all ages to top priority markets could add revenue of $100 per head or more. In addition to regaining lost ground on the trade front, CCA continues to encourage the Government of Canada to create new opportunities for beef exports by negotiating new trade agreements.
- The Ministers of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Trade as well as the Prime Minister should continue travelling to high priority trading partners to seek restoration of full beef access.
- Opposition MPs should support these efforts by matching participation enabling missions when Parliament is sitting.
- Consider appointing a Special Beef Envoy to continue Ministerial travel during election campaigns or while Parliament is sitting.
- Pursue ambitious bilateral trade agreement with the European Union to achieve full duty-free and quota-free access.
Business Risk Management and Disaster Programming
If Government can achieve the actions listed above to raise cattle prices and reduce costs, then producers can make a fair living from the market. Until these actions are achieved, cattle producers need to know that BRM programs exist. Unfortunately, the existing national programs are not designed to accommodate the needs of cattle producers. Individual provinces have attempted to address the situation unilaterally, thereby exacerbating the problem by creating frictions between cattle producers in various regions of the country.
- The Federal Government needs to lead a conscious and active effort to restore a national approach to BRM and Disaster Programming. Develop an effective and affordable national Federal-Provincial cattle price and basis insurance program.
- Eliminate the viability test for AgriStability, eliminate caps and allow producers to calculate reference margins on last three years or on Olympic average.
- With respect to Disaster Programming, clearly outline eligibility criteria for triggering Agri-Recovery and establish predetermined payments based per head and per acre for forage/pasture rejuvenation.
- Federal and Provincial Governments need to work with producers to develop more effective forage insurance programs across Canada including a feed needs replacement component.
Labour Shortages in Agriculture, Meat Processing Sectors
The ability to export more Canadian beef to markets is tempered by the reforms to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) announced in June 2014 by Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. On-farm primary agriculture, which includes feedlot workers, on-farm workers and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), is exempt from many of the major reforms, given the proven acute labour shortages there. The meat processing sector is similarly plagued with chronic and acute labour shortages across Canada yet is subject to the reforms, which will have a detrimental effect on these businesses. The CCA has lobbied hard for the unique needs of the meat processing industry to be recognized and be exempt under any changes to the TFWP. The CCA’s position is that trade agreements and market access expansions only work well if the resources required to maximize the opportunity are available. The CCA was working to address labour shortages long before the changes were announced. The shortages agriculture face are not temporary and are likely to get worse as Canada’s population ages.
Through the Value Chain Roundtables the beef sector along with the rest of Canadian agriculture has been pushing a Labour Action Plan for agriculture that focuses on three things:
1. Increase the supply of labour to agriculture. Domestic augmented by temporary and seasonal labour.
2. Connecting workers with jobs through a job resource library and career promotion tools.
3. Improving the knowledge and skills of workers through training and learning resources.