Posts

New partnership gives a boost to transpacific trade

Canada’s beef producers rely on international trade to keep their industry growing in a global economy. That’s why the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) was thrilled when the Government of Canada announced it has reached a trade deal with ten of Asia-Pacific’s fastest growing economies.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will provide tariff-free and/or competitive access to key markets in the Asia-Pacific region. It is to be signed in March and must then be ratified by the Canadian Parliament and by the governments of the ten other member countries.

We spoke with Claire Citeau, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), to learn why the agreement is so important for Canada’s agri-foods producers, including beef producers.

“Overall the CPTPP will reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers, open new, growing markets for Canadian agri-food products, and support jobs and prosperity here at home,” said Claire. “It will provide the sector with unprecedented access to the important Japanese market and rapidly growing Asian markets like Vietnam and Malaysia.

“The 11 countries in the CPTPP region include some of our main export markets, including Japan and Mexico, as well as seven new countries,” continued Claire. “Japan in particular is the big prize as it is our third export market and a high value market for Canadian agriculture and agrifood  – it is the largest economy in the CPTPP region, and the third largest in the world. Vietnam and Malaysia are other countries that could represent expanding markets.”

Some of Canada’s main competitors, such as Australia, have free trade agreements with countries in this region, which has given them a huge advantage over Canada when it comes to exports. The CPTPP will help to level the playing field.

Since the U.S. dropped out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and does not have free trade agreements with Japan, CPTPP will give Canadian producers a distinct advantage over the U.S. in the Japanese market.

Why speedy ratification is crucial

John Weekes, senior business advisor at Bennett Jones, former ambassador to the WTO and Canada’s chief negotiator for NAFTA, said he attributes Japanese leadership to TPP coming back to life again as the CPTPP – because they saw it as an important way to fill the vacuum that was left in the Asia-Pacific area when the U.S. retreated from the original TPP negotiations early in 2017. The Japanese came to the conclusion that it would be important to have a trade agreement with the sort of provisions that are in the CPTPP, in that part of the world. If Canada had turned its back on CPTPP, we could have faced not having a trade agreement with the Japanese for at least a decade.

John Weekes speaking at a Canadian International Council event in Ottawa on February 12, 2018.

When addressing attendees at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference in Red Deer on February 23, 2018 John stated,

Canada should approve CPTPP in parliament as soon as possible so we get in on the ground floor on tariff reductions and secure lower tariffs as quickly as possible.

Claire Citeau explained that the CPTPP will enter into force 60 days after at least six members ratify it. “We may lose the ‘first mover advantage’ if Canada is not among the first countries to ratify,” she said. “If our competitors ratify and implement the CPTPP before Canada, they will benefit from the initial rounds of tariff cuts and we won’t, putting us at a further disadvantage.”

“Having better and more competitive access to markets like Japan will create further growth and help create jobs in urban and rural areas in Canada,” concluded Claire.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, in which we will keep you updated on the ratification process.

6 issues cattle feeders will discuss at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference

Beef producers from all over Alberta will convene in Red Deer next week for the Alberta Beef Industry Conference.

This annual event is a chance for industry members to find out what’s new and network with others in the industry. As the event approaches, here’s a look at some of the pressing issues ACFA has been following, and that industry members will likely discuss.

#1 The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

The government has allocated $3 billion to invest, over the course of five years, in five areas: innovation and research; environmental sustainability; risk management; product and market development and diversification; and public trust. ACFA will look at devising projects and programs to advance the cattle feeding industry, which could attract funding under CAP.

#2 Labour

The Federal Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is currently reviewing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This program is a life-saver for cattle feeders when they are unable to find workers from within the Canadian workforce. Past government reviews have accepted ACFA recommendations but there is still room for improvement.  ACFA will continue to be engaged in this file.

#3 Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Last month the government announced it will sign onto the new CPTPP trade agreement. This is good news for the beef industry and should result in reduced tariffs in a number of export markets, especially Japan. ACFA will continue communicating with government to stress the importance of the agreement for Canada’s beef industry until it is fully approved and ratified by Parliament.

#4 Other trade issues

NAFTA and trade with China are two other pressing trade issues of great importance to cattle feeders. In June 2016, the U.S. secured approval from China for greater access to that market. Canadian producers need the same access. A new pilot program to export fresh and chilled Canadian beef to China is expected in 2018, but ACFA will continue to press for the same access given to the U.S.

#5 Competitiveness

About 10 years ago, ACFA commissioned a study to assess the competitiveness of cattle feeding in Alberta. The industry’s ability to compete effectively in the international market will continue to be a priority and there will be discussions about whether it is time to update this study.

#6 Industry governance and financing

The mandatory levy on beef sales, known as the check-off, is used to fund research and marketing activities on behalf of the entire industry. ACFA and the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have come together to devise a new governance and funding model for the provincial beef industry, and its use of check-off dollars. A plebiscite may be required later in 2018 for a final decision.

As well as conversation and networking, the conference also features a full program of speakers, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

For anyone interested in Alberta’s beef industry, its challenges and opportunities, this is a must-attend event.

Excellent reasons to attend this year’s Alberta Beef Industry Conference

On Feb 21-28, members of Alberta’s beef producing industry and their suppliers will gather at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, along with journalists, politicians and others interested in beef and the people who bring it to our tables.

The 15th annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference is a chance to find out what’s new, learn about the industry’s achievements and challenges, and make connections.

As always, the conference is packed with a great lineup of speakers. Here are a few highlights:

Andrew Ramlo: This strategic management consultant specializes in helping organizations develop strategies to address industry challenges and opportunities. He will be sharing his insights into everything from the changing consumption patterns of domestic and export markets, to issues of production and labour force trends.

Mark Sheridan: The president of Hester Creek Estate Winery will speak about the evolution of B.C.’s wine industry and the value the Vintners Quality Alliance has brought to wine producers in British Columbia.

John Weekes: As a senior adviser with Bennett Jones, John has worked with the National Cattle Feeders’ Association on many trade files, providing business and strategic advice. He will comment on NAFTA, Canada’s trade agreement with the United States and Mexico; the EU and the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA); efforts to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) into force without the U.S.; and trade relations with China and India.

Bruce Cameron: This veteran pollster will explore the challenges our democracy faces in a world where truth is relative. Using timely examples, he will show how integrating new social media metrics with established polling techniques offers a way to reduce margins of error and restore truth in politics.

The conference promises to be packed with great information. To learn more about these and other speakers, visit the conference program page.

How a beef plant is setting a new standard in food safety

A beef processing plant which opened this year just north of Calgary is setting new industry standards for food safety, animal care and environmental stewardship.

This week, we’re exploring the food safety innovations introduced at Harmony Beef, which opened in Balzac, AB., in February 2017.

Hazard analysis and critical control points

The management team at Harmony Beef is committed to meeting or exceeding the stringent requirements of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Food Safety Enhancement Program.

One of the cornerstones of the program is HACCP System (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), a systematic approach to food safety that helps prevent, find and correct hazards throughout the production process.

At Harmony:

    • The plant and production protocols have been designed to meet European standards, which exceed those in North America.
    • Temperature control and air flow systems in the building were designed to control any potential microbial growth and prevent contamination.
    • Critical control points, where inspections and interventions take place, include everything from slaughter to packaging.
    • Supervisory and food safety personnel have the authority to enforce compliance with food safety systems on anyone entering and/or working in the facility.
    • All water used in the plant is treated, and the outflow exceeds Canadian drinking water standards.

Opening up a world of opportunity

Because the new plant demonstrably complies with European food safety standards, it provides the opportunity to increase our trade with EU countries.

International trade is crucial to the growth and sustainability of the beef industry, and to the contribution it makes to the Canadian economy. But, as you can learn in the blog post, Canadian beef in demand: feeding the European market and why it matters, Canada does not meet its tariff-free quota for beef exports to Europe. In the post, feedlot operator Jason Hagel says processing plants in Alberta tend to focus on the U.S. market, leaving the European market under-served.

You can read about another international trade issue concerning Canada’s beef producers in Canadian beef trade with China takes a serious blow.

In upcoming weeks, we will explore the high standards of animal care, including low-stress handling, and the environmental innovations introduced at the Harmony plant.

4 things you should know about beef production and the environment

Canadians care about the environment, and want the facts. When it comes to the beef industry, it’s easy to find information about the environmental impacts of beef production, such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the digestive processes of cows. But it can be hard for Canadians to find balanced information – to learn, for instance, that beef production can also be good for the environment in a variety of ways.

Here are four ways beef production benefits the environment:

  1. Much of the land used for grazing cattle is unsuitable for crop production – for instance because it is too hilly, too stony, too boggy or too dry.
  2. Grasslands help maintain watersheds, sequester carbon, prevent erosion and support biodiversity.
  3. Much of the grain used by feedlots is not of a high enough quality for human consumption.
  4. Feedlots are able to use otherwise wasted by-products, such as waste from grain ethanol plants.

To help explain the environmental impact of the Canadian beef industry, Beef Advocacy Canada produced the following video which shows how beef production can actually be good for the environment:

As you can see, protecting the environment is a top priority for Canada’s beef producers. But there’s always more that can be done.

Striving for improvement

To find out how the beef industry is working to improve its environmental impacts, we spoke with Reynold Bergen, science director at the Beef Cattle Research Council. Reynold explained that the development and adoption of new production technologies, more efficient feeds and improved animal care has benefited people, cattle and the environment.

“Raising a kilogram of Canadian beef today generates 15 per cent less greenhouse gas than 30 years ago,” said Reynold. “We can also produce as much beef as we did 30 years ago using 29 per cent fewer cattle, and using 24 per cent less land.”

Check out the ways our members make environmental stewardship a priority in ‘How Alberta’s cattle feeders are helping protect the environment’, ‘Taking the heat off meat: the truth about GHG emissions’ and ‘The beef industry and sustainability: how are we doing and where could we improve?’

Cattle feeders head to Ottawa to support NAFTA negotiations

Canada’s beef producers are anxious to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because it is a great example of how free trade should work. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has threatened to pull his country out of the pact.

What NAFTA has meant to the Canadian beef industry

NAFTA’s tri-lateral market access — without tariffs or quotas for either beef or live cattle — has resulted in healthy trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, in 2016, Canada exported 270,000 tonnes of beef and 764,000 head of live cattle to the U.S., valued at more than $3 billion ($1.7 billion was beef and $1.4 billion live cattle). A further 16,000 tonnes of Canadian beef valued at $109 million went to Mexico, making that country Canada’s fourth largest beef export market.

In fact, almost 72 per cent of Canada’s beef exports go to the U.S., and six per cent to Mexico. Almost 59 per cent of our beef imports come from the U.S.

Beef industry submission to federal governments supports NAFTA

In May 2017, the National Cattle Feeders Association (NCFA) joined with other Canadian beef industry groups in a submission to the governments of Canada, U.S. and Mexico, stressing that NAFTA works well for beef and the relevant provisions should not be changed. The arrangement has produced an integrated North American beef industry that benefits the three countries, and has allowed Canada to build an industry that is also more competitive internationally.   

While the NAFTA talks could lead to a fine-tuning of some details – such as the elimination or reform of certain border regulations and export impediments, and the aligning and harmonizing of veterinary drug approvals – we believe it’s important for Canada’s beef producers, and the Canadian economy, to preserve this agreement.

How Canada’s beef industry is represented at the negotiation table

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a trade division that provides advice to the chief NAFTA negotiator. The trade team has received input and advice from industry representatives, and has held briefings for industry stakeholders prior to each round of the NAFTA talks. NCFA is planning to be at the upcoming briefings for the second round that will be held in Ottawa on September 23-27. 

How Canada’s beef industry could be negatively impacted by changes to NAFTA

Any changes that would restrict the free flow of live cattle and boxed beef across the borders to the U.S. and Mexico could have a profound effect on Canada’s beef producers. Another concern is any reimplementation of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL), which has been historically damaging to the beef industry.

You can read the full submission to the governments of Canada, U.S. and Mexico  here.

Infographic: How does Alberta produce world-class beef?

Canadian beef – and Alberta’s in particular – is internationally recognized for its quality and taste. But what are the key difference makers in Alberta beef production? What sets our province apart?

Take a look at our infographic below to gain a better understanding of how Alberta’s cattle feeders produce world-class beef. For more information, check out our overview of beef production in Alberta.

Beef production in Alberta:

Beef production

Emissions research part 2: helping cattle feeders reduce their impact on the environment, and on their neighbours

Last week on this blog we talked about a research project that is helping us understand the greenhouse gas emissions from feedlots. We explained why the project was needed and what it studied.

This week we continue our conversation with Dr. Sean McGinn of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to find out how the study will help Canada’s cattle feeders minimize their impact on the environment.

Early results

The study showed that 14 per cent of the ammonia emitted at feedlots is redeposited in the immediate vicinity of the feedlot, and reemitted into the atmosphere.  “That 14 per cent is a large amount considering a typical feedlot emits one to two tonnes of ammonia per day,” said Sean. However, it is worth noting that the amount of ammonia in the soil decreased by 50 per cent over a distance of just 200 metres.

Sean explained that the implications of this depositing and reemitting of ammonia is a mixed bag of good, bad and indifferent:

    • Improved crop production – if ammonia falls in soils that are low in nitrogen it can actually reduce the need for fertilizer and increase crop production.
    • Damage to ecosystems – when ammonia is deposited to a natural ecological surface – where plants have adapted to a specific nitrogen content in the soil – the loading of these ecosystems with ammonia can disrupt the plant composition.
    • No effect on feedlot odours – ammonia concentrations are often thought to contribute to feedlot odour, but the concentrations, even close to the feedlot, are well below the detection threshold concentration (as documented by atmospheric health studies) – feedlot odour is not related to ammonia release.
    • Neutralizing of atmospheric acids – when ammonia is emitted into the atmosphere, it can be transported long distances where it has a role in neutralizing atmospheric acids.
    • Potential for exacerbating respiratory problems – where the acids are in high concentration (associated with cities) and where animal agriculture is established, there is an accumulation of fine aerosols that causes respiratory problems for people living in the area. This can be seen in the Fraser Valley of B.C.

Moving forward

Feedlot operators are serious about operating sustainably and responsibly. With new measurement tools in place, it means our industry is better placed to minimize its effects on the environment, and also to help inform public policy.

As Dr. Karen Koenig, another researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, explains in her article, ‘New methane and ammonia mitigation options in the pipeline’, there are immediate changes feedlot operators can make to reduce the ammonia emissions from their operations:

    • The amount of ammonia emitted from manure can be reduced by changing the amount of crude protein fed to cattle.
    • There are also new forages available that contain substances known to bind nitrogen in manure. “In research we look for win-win results that not only benefit the environment, but also increase efficiencies,” Sean noted. “The retention of valuable nitrogen in manure can result in a savings of thousands of dollars each day in fertilizer costs, while helping reduce atmospheric dispersion.”

To learn more about the research project, check out part one of this series, and be sure to read this earlier blog post, ‘What do you know about cows and GHG emissions?’.

From oil and gas to bovine gas, measuring GHG emissions is an important part of setting targets

We know that livestock contribute to GHG emissions. What we don’t know for sure, is exactly how, or to what degree. In this blog post we’re taking a look at a recent study designed to close some of the gaps in our knowledge.

Read more

Why Lethbridge County cattle feeders could be leaving via new roads

Here in Alberta, beef is a $5 billion industry. It supplies 75 per cent of our province’s meat exports, and 40 per cent of all agricultural exports.

But the hard-working Albertans who keep Alberta’s heritage industry running are worried about their future. They are dealing with increased costs from the province, taxation by municipalities and protectionist threats from the United States, all of which put untold pressure on their operations.

There’s not much we can do about threats from south of the border, but on a more local scale, our cattle producers are faced with issues that jeopardize their livelihoods. One such issue is the livestock head tax in Lethbridge County.

The county has proposed the tax to help raise money to build and repair roads and bridges. Few would argue that this infrastructure is not needed, but the burden will fall disproportionately on local cattle feeders, who will be paying 85 per cent of the tax.

What a livestock head tax means for cattle feeders

At any given time, there are more than half a million cattle in feedlots in Lethbridge County. This business contributes over $600 million to the local economy. But an independent analysis of the tax concluded that cattle feeding operations will either close or move to other jurisdictions. Feeder cattle will migrate to US feedlots. This means Alberta will lose a value-added component of the beef industry which has taken generations to build.

Why a dysfunctional property tax system lies at the root of the problem 

Lethbridge County argues that the infrastructure money it needs can’t come from increasing property tax on farmland because Lethbridge already has one of the highest farmland tax rates in Alberta. At first glance, this appears to be true – farmland property taxes in Lethbridge County are 2.3 per cent of assessed value compared to a provincial average of 1.1 per cent. But this requires a closer look:

    • Comparing taxes paid as a per cent of assessed value is not the way to measure tax burden. This can only be measured by comparing taxes paid to personal or net business income. 
    • When measured as a percentage of per capita income, taxes paid on farmland in Lethbridge County are about 40 per cent lower today than they were in 1996.
    • The property tax system does not properly assess and tax land used for intensive livestock operations. 
    • Assessment rates have not been updated since 1983.  As a result, the property tax burden is not being fairly shared among owners of farmland. 

The Alberta government has long known about these issues with the property tax system. It commissioned a review in 2002, resulting in recommendations which were subsequently ignored.

Ignoring the problem is no longer an option. It’s time for the government to modernize and update the farmland property tax system so municipalities can raise the revenue they need to serve their citizens and support their livelihoods.

We have called on the Minister of Municipal Affairs to work with us in designing a province-wide solution for this province-wide issue. We need fair, equitable, and transparent tax policy. It’s the only way to support the businesses on which our economy is founded.

You can learn more about other issues that are of concern to Alberta’s cattle feeders in ‘5 feedlot issues to watch for in 2017.’