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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

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Thank you, Pierre.

I have one last question for Mr. Toews.

Our government has been targeting efficiencies. Often efficiencies have a positive effect on quantity and quality. I want you to comment about some red tape issues with CFIA at auction marts. How can we change that? What are some specifics that you would see us do?

5:05 p.m.

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

Travis Toews

That's a pertinent question.

We desperately need and we benefit from, largely, quite a competitive marketing process in Canada, not only isolated to auction markets. Quite a high number of cattle do continue to sell at auction markets. In terms of challenges there, what's really important is that adequate tolerances are applied when it comes to enforcing our mandatory ID system, which we all believe is incredibly important.

We need to ensure that those folks on the ground are using a common-sense approach when applying the regulations. While there's a genuine effort to improve tag quality, those tags do continue to fall out from time to time, and unless that CFIA agent wants to comb the bottom of that cattle liner to find the lost tag, there needs to be some reasonable tolerances applied.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Actually, Chair, just in the time we have left, that actually touches on a question I wanted to ask. Maybe I could hear from all three sectors again on what you think traceability adds to the value chain. I know traceability is a current topic in that there have been certain initiatives, particularly at auction marts regarding traceability. It goes down to the farm level.

I'll start with beef, go to pork, and finish with sheep. Could you give a quick summary of what you see as the impact of traceability on your industry?

5:05 p.m.

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

Travis Toews

First, the beef value chain round table is a great venue to discuss traceability, because we have all sectors around the table.

Approximately 10 or 12 years ago, the Canadian cattle industry made a big step forward in moving towards mandatory individual animal ID. This has provided us with the ability to do herd-of-origin trace back. That ability was instrumental in Canada obtaining controlled risk status at the OIE around the whole BSE issue. Of course, gaining that controlled risk status was instrumental in regaining market access. We do already have a traceability system at play in the cattle industry. We have basically a bookend system with the ability to do herd-of-origin trace back, and retirement of the tags at either processing or export.

We want to move forward as an industry eventually to full animal movement tracking, but we want to move forward carefully. The last thing we want to do is move forward hastily and bring extra regulatory burdens on an industry that competes globally. At the same time, technology is improving monthly. I think as those tag traceability trials have shown, the technology is still in catch-up mode, in terms of what we demand of it.

We're committed to seeing that premises ID is finalized across the country, and then moving to a phased implementation of movement tracking. At the same time, we hope technology will be improving so that we can move forward incrementally but progressively to eventual full traceability.

5:05 p.m.

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

Florian Possberg

We've been working really hard on the traceability file for a few years now. We have it to the point now where we have most of the premises across Canada identified. We have computer systems in place to actually track animals. We're still having some issues with confidentiality and other issues that kind of defy logic from a producer point of view. If you're going to actually identify something, you should have the freedom to actually use that information in a worthwhile way, so we still have a few things to deal with.

We're not doing individual animal ID, as they would in the cattle and sheep industry. We're dealing with pens of pigs and loads of pigs. The advantage we have is that our animals don't go out to pasture and move from place to place throughout their lives. They're usually quite confined to where they're produced.

We're seeing progress, but we're still seeing challenges. We think there is a benefit, but as Mr. Toews outlined, it has to be workable and it has to be done in an economical way, because our producers do not want regulation for the sake of regulation. It has to produce something positive.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Thank you very much.

Is there any—

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

The sheep people might have wanted to say a word on it.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Okay, Mr. Gordanier, go ahead.

5:10 p.m.

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

Andrew Gordanier

I'll simply touch on carcass information from RFID. It's very limited, but the producers that do have access to that service from a packer.... Very few lambs are being graded, but for the ones that are, being able to get information back on an individual basis.... I know maybe for beef and pork that seems rather elementary, but for the sheep industry it's something very new for us. Getting that information back and being able to use it for decisions genetics-wide, as well as how we feed our animals, is very useful.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Do you mean back to the farmer?

5:10 p.m.

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

Andrew Gordanier

Right back to the primary producer, exactly. If it's gone through a feedlot, we have a similar situation where there are some problems with privacy, of course, being able to share that information. However, we're working through that through different agreements, I guess.

Secondly, as far as disease outbreak control goes, we see around the world that an outbreak is quite disastrous for an industry. Having a traceability system in place would allow us to, hopefully, control that.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Thank you very much.

Is there any point you weren't asked about that any one of the three round tables would like to comment on?

Mr. Possberg.

5:10 p.m.

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

Florian Possberg

I'd like to make a point around one of the things we're trying to deal with as an industry, it's the Growing Forward 2 process. A lot of our major funding initiatives, whether it's in exports or health or traceability, the way our funding is set up March 31, 2013, is kind of a key date. That's when Growing Forward 1 ends.

The uncertainty we're dealing with, not knowing what Growing Forward 2 is going to produce, is causing a little stress. We know it's a process, but it would be nice if we could have a little more definition from one program to the next.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

I know the discussions with both Minister Ritz, and provinces and territories are ongoing right now. That's about all I can say.

Mr. Lemieux, have you anything you can add to Mr. Possberg's comment?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

No.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

They're there, and I think I sympathize with you and understand why the sooner the better.... That's a fair comment.

Travis.

5:10 p.m.

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

Travis Toews

Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

I have one point to add. There was a fair bit of discussion around labelling, good comments around labelling and product of Canada.

I think as most of you know, we're dealing with a challenge with mandatory country of origin labelling in the United States right now. It's certainly our view, at least in respect to the Canadian cattle and beef industry, the solution we're proposing down there also ultimately provides instruction to the product of Canada rules here.

We recognize we're in an integrated North American industry. Ultimately, it's our view that if a product is substantially transformed in a particular country, it should become a product of that country. We'd advocate that for Canada, as we do in the U.S.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Thanks, Travis.

Andrew, do you have any last comments?

5:10 p.m.

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

Andrew Gordanier

No, I think I'm good. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to come here and answer the questions.

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Thanks very much to all of you. I think it has been very productive. I know that we attempted to do this a while ago, but crazy things happen here. Anyway, thanks very much again.

The meeting is adjourned.