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How regulatory changes could help trade with the U.S.

This week, we’re exploring recent changes to federal regulations that will help ease the trade in live cattle between Canada and the United States. It’s a follow-up to an earlier post in which we explained why trade with the U.S. is so important to Canada’s beef producers.

The governments of both Canada and the U.S. have strict regulations under which cattle can be imported into their respective countries.

One particular concern is to identify where an animal was born in the event of a disease outbreak. The required inspections, paperwork and documentation can be onerous. 

The Restricted Feeder Cattle Program

The Restricted Feeder Cattle Program was implemented to simplify keeping track of feeder cattle imported from the U.S. to a feedlot in Canada and then directly to the processor. The program allows importation without test requirements on a year-round basis but with proper identification and certification. 

The movement of these feeder cattle must be direct to a feedlot registered with the program, and from there, direct to processing. Because these cattle will not be going anywhere else, it makes them much simpler to trace back, so it was possible to relax the regulations.

Why there was a need for change

Typically, more feeder cattle and finished cattle are shipped from Canada to the U.S. than in the other direction.   But in 2017, market conditions changed, and between 150,000 and 200,000 head of feeder cattle were imported into Canada from the U.S. 

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) recognized that changes to the Restricted Feeder Cattle Program could make the process easier and less costly for Canadian feedlot owners, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accepted NCFA’s suggestions. 

A summary of the changes

Recent changes to the Restricted Feeder Cattle Program have focused on the following areas:

1. Identification – including the information to be included on RFID tags.

2. Vehicle sealing – making allowance for rest stops for cattle en route.

3. Documentation for importation and border requirements – including allowances for shipments contained in multiple trucks.

4. Inspection at destination, approved feedlot – which can, in some cases, be completed electronically, based on a reading of the RFID tags.

For feedlot owners who are importing large numbers of feeder cattle, these changes will have a  significant impact on their costs, and their ability to justify the import of cattle from the U.S.

Maintaining a regulatory regime that protects people and animals, while simultaneously facilitating free and open trade, will promote a continued, mutually beneficial relationship. That’s why livestock producers will be watching negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement closely.

You can read more about this in the post, Why free North American trade is good for the beef industry and Canada.

Why free North American trade is good for the beef industry and Canada

Since the inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1994, the beef industries of Canada, U.S. and Mexico have essentially been operating in one single, North American market. In fact, the beef industry is a good example of how the original design and intent behind NAFTA has been successfully accomplished.

In this integrated market, processed beef (fresh, chilled and frozen), as well as live cattle, move across the border relatively unimpeded and entirely tariff-free. The U.S. is Canada’s largest export customer for beef, and Canada’s single largest import supplier.

Did you know?
In 2016, Canada exported 270,00 metric tonnes of beef (75 per cent of our total beef exports) to the U.S. In the same year, 63 per cent of Canada’s beef imports (186,000 metric tonnes) came from the U.S. That same year, Canada also exported 765,395 head of live cattle, primarily to the U.S. The U.S. exported 30,291 head of live cattle to Canada.

 

Why an integrated market benefits beef producers on both sides of the border

Free and open trade between Canada and the U.S. has had two significant benefits.

First, the trade in live cattle and beef products ensure that both countries have a source of supply to meet the demand within their own domestic markets. A steady, and sufficient supply of cattle is critical to the efficient operation of feedlots and beef-packing plants.

Second, the vigorous and dynamic trade in live cattle and beef products has injected a healthy dose of competition into the beef industry on both sides of the border. This has resulted in a more efficient, productive industry that is highly competitive in the global beef market. For example, beef from Canada and the U.S. is proving attractive in the Asia Pacific marketplace, despite the geographical advantages of competitive beef exporters such as Australia and New Zealand. This is because of our ability to compete on quality and price.

The way forward for the integrated market.

Cattle producers on both sides of the border are well aware of the benefits of free and open trade. The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) has been working with counterparts in the U.S., such as the Texas Cattle Feeders’ Association (TCFA), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) to address any issues that could be an impediment to the continuation of NAFTA.

One such issue concerns the maintenance of a regulatory regime that provides essential safeguards for animal health and disease prevention without imposing unnecessary economic costs or barriers to trade. The right regulatory balance is crucial.

In an upcoming blog post we will write about a set of reforms to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations that will make importing and exporting live cattle easier, less time consuming, and less costly – helping to remove impediments to trade, smooth the border, and speed the pace of commerce. Stay tuned.

4 reasons the National Beef Strategy is important to Canada

These are interesting times in the beef industry. Our producers face numerous challenges such as declining cattle numbers across the world and consumer concerns about environmental impacts and animal welfare. At the same time, new markets, including those in Asia and the Pacific region, are providing opportunities for industry expansion.

To ensure Canada’s beef producers are positioned to make the most of these opportunities — and overcome the challenges — industry organizations, including the National Cattle Feeders’ Association, came together to develop a National Beef Strategy. 

The goal of the strategy is to position Canadian beef producers for greater profitability and growth and to support their reputation for superior quality, safety, value, innovation and sustainable production methods.

The National Beef Strategy is based on four main pillars and goals:

#1 Beef Demand

To increase the value generated from each animal by 15 per cent. Recommendations include:

  • Product development and the use of under-valued cuts to maximize competitiveness
  • Building recognition and loyalty for the Canadian Beef Advantage brand
  • Pursuit of an ambitious international trade agenda
  • Increasing consumer confidence in food safety, quality and production practices
  • Communication of the sustainability message

 

#2 Competitiveness

To reduce cost disadvantages compared to main competitors by seven per cent:

  • Working with regulators to develop a supportive regulatory environment
  • Improving access to affordable resources such as skilled labour, animal health products, feed grains and forages and new technologies
  • Maintaining and enhancing research capacity
  • Continuous improvement in sustainability and efficient use of resources

 

#3 Productivity

To increase production efficiencies by 15 per cent through improvements in the following:

  • Genetic selection
  • Research and development
  • Enhanced information flow along the production chain through information technology and verification

 

#4 Connectivity

To improve communication within the industry and connect positively with consumers, the public, government and partner industries through:

  • Development of an industry communication strategy
  • Engagement with industry partners and stakeholders
  • Engagement with government, consumers, domestic and international organizations

 

“This strategy is something all stakeholders in the industry can buy into,” said Martin Unrau, co-chair of the National Beef Strategic Planning Group. “There’s strength in numbers and by working together we will build a stronger and more robust industry capable of meeting and responding to the opportunities now and into the future.”

You can read more about some of the challenges facing cattle feeders in ‘Pressing cattle feeders issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip’.

Pressing cattle feeder issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip

Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, General Andrew Leslie addressing attendees at a townhall sponsored by University of Alberta and Global Affairs Canada.
Photo Credit: Casey Vander Ploeg

Last month, representatives of the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association headed to Ottawa to participate in a series of meetings between the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) and Canadian politicians.

The meetings provided an opportunity to put the issues and challenges facing Canada’s cattle feeders in front of key members of government. The critical issues discussed included:

    • Labour: Changes are needed to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), so cattle feeders and beef processors can access desperately needed workers.  Employers are currently forced to endure a lengthy and convoluted process rife with red tape and changing requirements, which takes many months to complete.
    • Infrastructure: Significant funding is needed to upgrade rural infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges. Current investment is heavily swayed to urban areas, but it is the rural areas where much of the economic activity occurs, including mining, agriculture, oil and gas, and transportation.
    • NAFTA: A successful outcome to the negotiations is needed to encourage and facilitate international trade
    • TPP: Now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – even though the U.S. has now left the partnership, it is important for our industry that Canada signs on and keeps the negotiated market provisions as they were before. 
    • EU trade: EU approval of Canadian food safety practices will enable us to start filling our tariff-free quota under the agreement. 
    • China: Canada needs the same access to China as the U.S. successfully achieved in June 2017. Following a recent agriculture trade mission to China by Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, bone-in beef will hopefully start moving soon and a pilot project will be created to export Canadian fresh-chilled beef.  While not the same access afforded to U.S. beef, it is a step in the right direction.

NCFA board meeting

During the same trip, an NCFA board meeting was held. Several influential officials attended to discuss pressing issues:

To learn more about other ways that ACFA advocates for Alberta’s cattle feeders, visit our Advocacy Page.

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.

Budget 2017 and agriculture: 5 things you should know

A major mandate for the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, and for the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA), is to represent our industry to the government. We work hard to keep the lines of communication open, and to provide valuable information about the challenges our members face, and how that affects Canadians.

The recent federal budget, announced on March 22, 2017, is a testament to that dialogue. To learn how the budget has addressed the needs of the agricultural sector, we spoke with Cathy Noble of Noble Path Strategic Consulting. Noble Path provides consulting services to NCFA.

“Not only did this budget demonstrate a renewed interest by the government in the agriculture and agri-food sector, but it also addressed many priority issues upon which NCFA has advocated including labour, research, trade, food safety and infrastructure.” said Cathy.

Five agricultural priorities addressed

Cathy outlined some of the most pressing priorities that were addressed in the 2017 federal budget, and the commitments made:

#1 Temporary foreign workers

The budget includes support for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program, as well as amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that those immigration candidates who are most likely to succeed in Canada are granted express entry.

You can read more about why it’s so important for Canadian farmers to have access to temporary foreign workers in ‘Feeding the world: why the agri-food industry must be an economic priority.’

#2 Trade and market access

Reviews of, and investment in, rail service, gateways and ports will help Canadian producers get agri-food products to market. This will be boosted by the elimination of tariffs on many agri-food processing ingredients, strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian agri-food manufacturers both at home and abroad.

More trade commissioners will also be placed in strategic markets abroad to support this investment attraction, and new trade agreements with the European Union and Asia will be a boon for the economy as well.

To learn more about market access for Canadian beef, check out these posts on trade with the European market and Canada’s 58 most important beef export markets.

#3 Food Safety

Investments in core food safety inspection programming delivered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada, as well as food safety regulations will help build Canada’s global reputation for the highest standards of food safety.

#4 Agricultural science and innovation

The Liberals have committed to investing $70 million over six years to support agricultural discovery science and innovation, with a focus on addressing emerging priorities such as climate change and soil and water conservation.

#5 Agricultural policy framework

The next agricultural policy framework will be launched in 2018 where federal, provincial and territorial governments will renew their commitments to investing in this critical sector. As part of the development of the next framework, governments will consider the ways in which innovation in agriculture can help strengthen the sector as a whole, enhance our value-added exports and create stronger, more well-paying jobs for Canadians.

The full budget can be found on the Government of Canada website. And check out ‘Five feedlot issues to watch out for in 2017’, to see how many made the budget.

The evolution of the cattle feeding industry: 7 decades in our history

As we’ve seen in previous posts, such as ‘Feedlots 101: everything you need to know about cattle feeding in Alberta’, this province is the hub of Canada’s beef industry.

Although ranching in Alberta started as early as the 1860s, cattle feeding didn’t develop as a distinct sector until much later than that. Here’s a very condensed history, showing how cattle feeding has evolved over the years: Read more

New assessment tool to audit feedlot animal care

Last week on this blog, we talked about the fact that cattle feeders are committed to high standards of animal care – we explained that it’s both good business sense, and the right thing to do. We also explained why it’s not enough for individual feedlot operators to know that their standards are high: Read more

Cattle feeding in 2015: a year in review

This was another busy year for the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, as we continued to support our industry through five strategic priorities.  With new governments both provincially and federally, we’ve been kept very busy. Here are some of 2015’s highlights:

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The making of a cattle feeders’ association – major milestones in our history

 

Alberta cattle feeders

Photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum circa 1910

Alberta has a long history of producing the finest beef, and our feedlot operators are proud of the role they play in producing world-class quality. 

Alberta cattle feedlots

Photo credit Glenbow Museum “Start to Finish” circa 1953

In a previous post we explained who the ACFA is, and what we do. This week we’re going to share a short history of the Alberta feedlot industry and the birth of its association:

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