Evidence of meeting #45 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was beef.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Blair Coomber  Government Co-Chair, Beef Value Chain Roundtable, and Director General, Multilateral Relations, Policy and Engagement Directorate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Florian Possberg  Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable
  • Andrew Gordanier  Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation, Sheep Value Chain Roundtable
  • Travis Toews  Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

4:55 p.m.

Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation, Sheep Value Chain Roundtable

Andrew Gordanier

For sure, thank you.

Two working groups were created, coming out of last fall's sheep value chain round table, one was the expansion working group. They have just started to establish action items or limiting factors on expansion. As a result, one of those is the access to medications. There are production-limiting diseases that we struggle with in this country. We don't necessarily have access to vaccinations that can be used as a preventive measure so that every birth actually makes it to something on the table.

Right now, we don't experience that. We have production-limiting diseases that slow down production. We are also experiencing very high prices, which makes it a challenge for producers to expand their flocks. You can’t keep replacement ewe lambs back and send them for slaughter at the same time.

What can the government do to help? We're working with government to get access to those medications. We're working with the veterinary drugs directorate, but also with the Canadian Animal Health Institute, which is, from my understanding, all the drug companies at the same place. We know what products are available in other parts of the world, and just getting access to those and getting distribution.

Coming back to the lack of size of our industry, there isn't always a huge incentive for those companies to bring a product to Canada to put on the shelf. That's a hurdle we are attempting to get over right now because there are provisions that state we can use science from other countries. That's huge—using that science from other countries so that the drug company doesn't have to go through all the hoops to get it approved here in Canada. They can use the science from Australia or from the United States to make a product available on the shelves here for producers.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Ms. Brosseau, go ahead.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Does it take a long time to get a new medication approved in Canada?

When something is being used in another country and it works well for them, how long does it typically take to get approved in Canada?

4:55 p.m.

Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation, Sheep Value Chain Roundtable

Andrew Gordanier

We recently learned, through working with the Canadian Animal Health Institute as well as the veterinary and drug directorate, that we're researching all those things, actually. Whether we're able to use the science from there depends on what is approved in another country and what the agreement is with that country. I mentioned Australia specifically because agreements are already in place to use their science. Some of the drugs we're looking for are vaccines. Specifically, we're looking for access to our available European companies. We haven't gone through all the steps to know exactly how long all that takes. I don't really have a very clear answer for your question, unfortunately.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you.

Mr. Hoback.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Thank you, Chair. Thank you, witnesses. It's great to see you here today. To a lot of you, it's great to see you here again.

Travis, I know we were in Colombia together about a year ago, so it was good to see you were down there working on opening up markets. Our Prime Minister and Minister Fast were there, and I believe Minister Ritz was also there, too, if I remember right.

I guess when we look forward to opening up markets, we've seen that both the agriculture minister and the Minister of International Trade have been very active. What's the impact to you guys if we continue along this threshold, especially on markets like CETA and the TPP?

5 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

Thanks for that question. That's a great question.

In light of dealing with limited resources with government, our industry's competitiveness depends on competitive global market access. Even with a smaller cattle herd, it's just as vital today. The efforts made by Minister Ritz particularly, but also Minister Fast and the Prime Minister, have been absolutely imperative to regaining the ground we have over the last few years. From our perspective, we need that work to continue.

We know that travel is expensive. Yet there's no substitute for Minister Ritz travelling, virtually during every break he's had, into another key country of market access potential for the Canadian cattle and beef industry as well as other agriculture sectors. We need that to continue.

The reality is that in the cattle and beef industry, in order to maximize cutout value, or the value of every fed steer and heifer we produce in Canada, every part of that animal has to find its way to the highest value market in the world. That's going to be something in the neighbourhood of 20 to 25 markets, potentially, from every fed steer and heifer. That's the way we're competitive.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Can you give us an overview of what it has done to the price? One can go to different areas of the cattle sector. If you look back two years ago, let's say, at a cow-calf operator, and what was he getting for calves and what is he getting today, just give us an idea of what opening market access has done to the sector.

5 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

There are a few things at play, but clearly increased market access has been a major contributor to the price increase, along with very tight supplies globally and in North America. We've seen prices almost double for the average rancher out there. They certainly have gone up in the neighbourhood of 60%, up to 90% or 100%.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Possberg, you've been through a tough time in your sector. You're right; the tough have survived, there's no question about it. I commend you guys because it's been a tough grind.

If I heard you right, you see light at the end of the tunnel. We're starting to come out of it. What are the things you identified as the key issues we should be working on to get you out of this tunnel and get the sector healthy again?

5 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

There's no question that the efforts to keep foreign markets open is absolutely essential for us. Over 60% of the pork we produce in Canada is exported globally. We find that, in particular, some of our major markets have responded quite positively to our federal government's initiatives abroad: Russia, China, even Japan. When we see our Prime Minister, Minister Ritz, and Minister Fast, along with some of our industry people, go to visit those countries and talk to their people, we see a boost in our traders' ability to market into those markets. It just makes for good relations and it's very positive.

The effort that is going into the CETA negotiations could be very positive for us if we get the right results. We don't know if we're going to get the right results yet, but quite frankly, unless you put the effort in, you'll never know. If we actually pull that off, Canada will be in a very good position in terms of our other major competitors—the United States and Brazil—to access the European market. That could be very positive for us for a long time.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Actually, you touched on a point that reflects back to the round tables and that information, when you said, if we “get the right results”. Obviously, the industry at the round table level has gotten through and said this is what we require out of this type of agreement. That's how it would be communicated back to the department, is that correct?

5 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

It is.

The Canadian Pork Council is brought into the discussions. We also understand what impediments our processors and traders have. Sometimes you can have access in theory, but in practicality you really don't, so understanding what all the pieces are to make it work properly is really important. The value chain has been helpful in that area.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Am I there?