Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
For those who don't know me, my wife, family, and I own and operate a cow-calf and yearling operation out of Grande Prairie, Alberta. I appreciate this opportunity to present on behalf of the beef value chain round table.
The Canadian beef industry is a global leader, known for its premium products, world-renowned genetics, innovation and research, as well as its investments in food safety and quality. The biggest importers of Canadian beef are the United States, Mexico, and Japan. In 2009 Canada's beef exports totalled over $1.2 billion.
Launched in 2003, the beef value chain round table was established to foster a collaborative industry-government relationship that would secure an enduring competitive advantage for Canada in global markets. In 2003 and subsequent years it served as a BSE round table and enabled initiatives and solutions from the total supply chain during that time.
The beef supply chain in Canada has many different interconnected parts from genetics, feed manufacturers, backgrounders, cow-calf operations, feedlots, renderers, processors, food service, and retailers. There are places in the supply chain where each of these parts interact with one another, and there are issues of common concern and priority for all parts of the supply chain. However, there are also parts of the supply chain where the priorities and/or concerns are different and distinct.
For example, it's in the best interests of all parts of the supply chain for additional markets to open to Canadian beef. It is also in the best interests of all that each sector functions in the most competitive manner possible. The challenge is to grow the total pie so that all members of the supply chain have additional opportunity.
Competitiveness issues are incredibly important to the sector and recent key priorities include own-use imports, traceability, e-certification, the temporary foreign worker programs, the beef legacy fund, and regulatory cooperation with the United States. AAFC and other government departments are actively working with the sector to move forward on a number of these priorities. However, there are examples where the industry feels faster movement is necessary. Improving the regulatory environment through regulatory modernization concerning e-certification, the approval processes for veterinary drugs, new plant varieties, and food safety interventions remains a top priority for the sector.
The sector continues to dedicate attention to determining and updating market access priorities and is working alongside the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association, and Canada Beef Inc., to increase international and domestic market development. Innovation and research enable the industry to maintain a globally competitive edge, and the supply chain has played a role in the creation of the beef science cluster.
The sector is in the process of drafting a national beef research strategy that will define a five-year national beef research strategy that establishes desired industry research outcomes and improves coordination of funders. AAFC has been involved in the creation of this strategy and continues to support the sector moving forward.
A key priority for the sector is the management of information transfer issues associated with tracking and traceability. The beef information exchange system, developed by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, is a program that's a world-renowned example of this. Both are important and effective tools that support emergency management by enabling the flow of information across the agrifood chain, and therefore, reduce the economic impacts of an emergency.
Recently the round table took the opportunity to review its objectives with a goal of resetting its agenda. This revised agenda will be considered further at future meetings.
Looking ahead, the beef value chain round table will continue to work on identified issues of importance and next steps over the course of 2012 and beyond. Key priority issues going forward for the beef value chain round table include exploring value creation opportunities, development of the beef research strategy, and continuing to work on competitiveness issues identified by the industry.
In conclusion, the beef value chain round table's vision is to lead the world in profitable, innovative beef solutions together. I will say that while many of our issues, in particular regulatory challenges, move slower than we would like to see, I don't know of a venue where we have advanced those regulatory issues of concern in a more constructive way than at the beef value chain round table.
One of the table's most important achievements has been the improvement in the spirit of collaboration across the beef value chain.
The beef value chain round table has also been instrumental in establishing a foreign veterinary presence, resulting in four CFIA veterinarians posted abroad in key markets.
Another beef value chain round table initiative has been the creation of the Market Access Secretariat. While the beef value chain wasn't the initial organization to kickstart that initiative, it certainly lent a lot of support in its establishment.
Again, as was mentioned, the beef value chain round table was instrumental in managing and enhancing communication during the BSE crisis. It played a pivotal role during that time. It has also been very instrumental in working with the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs to enhance their resources and eliminate the backlog in approval of new products. It has worked ultimately to contribute to the beef cattle industry firmly recovering its global competitive position.
Finally, I would be remiss not to thank Minister Ritz, Minister Fast and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for their support and assistance, and for moving forward with many of the priorities that have been identified at the beef value chain round table.