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The next project after COOL

The key to farm policy change is persistence

I have to give the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Canada’s federal government credit for their patience and persistence. I never thought the U.S. government would ever do away with its country-of-origin labelling (COOL) law once it was enacted in 2008.

And after all the trips and lobbying to the U.S. capital over the past eight years, I figured “You guys are wasting your time.” But lo, there at the end of 2015, President Barack Obama signed the order to do away with COOL.

The World Trade Organization kept holding the U.S. feet to the fire in its rulings that said COOL was unfair. Canada and Mexico (because it affected them too) joined with their threats and plans to impose about $4 billion in levies and surcharges on U.S. imports. The WTO ruled that $1 billion was fair.

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And it wasn’t even that the U.S. government administration that supported COOL. The U.S. agriculture secretary, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. meat industry all were in agreement with WTO rulings. It was just relatively strong and somewhat radical Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-Calf) that lobbied long and hard to have COOL created.

Writer Jeff Gaye in the January issue of Beef Business, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers magazine, had a good article on the rise and fall of COOL (available at skstockgrowers.com). In the article SSGA past-president Harold Martens said at one point COOL was costing the Canadian meat industry about $640 million per year in lost business and it also cost Canadian producers about $2 million to fight COOL. I’m not sure what the final figures are, obviously the fight was a worthwhile investment.

But I decided over the years that these trade matters are fickle and irrational. I remember sitting in the office of Nithi Govindasamy years ago and marvelled as he talked about the slow pace of trade negotiations. Govindasamy is now deputy minister of Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, but back in the day he was a young international trade specialist with Alberta Agriculture.

But I guess the grain guys also know a bit about patience and persistence. How many decades of lobbying and protesting did it take to end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly? I was probably the last to discover this information, but recently during some reading I learned that when the wheat pools were created back in early 1920s they themselves created a Central Selling Agency to pool the price and market grain. That system was successful for several years, but then the Agency ran into financial difficulties after a crop failure in 1928-29, so the federal government stepped in to bail it out, and then created the CWB in 1935.

Maybe now that the CCA guys have a lot of spare time after slaying the COOL dragon, they can work on dismantling or fixing the Middle East oil cartel to get the world economy going again.

Coming Events

  • Alberta Beef Industry Conference — Beef producers from across Western Canada are invited to the annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference, Feb. 17 to 19 at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer, Alta. The conference will feature more than a dozen speakers on a wide range of topics including marketing, business management, nutritional advice, animal health, and North American and global economics and markets. One session bound to have an interesting message will feature former Alberta Conservative cabinet minister Doug Griffiths with a talk on 13 ways to kill your beef industry. For more details visit the conference website at: www.abiconference.ca
  • SSGA Spring Break — If you’re looking to get away to someplace warm, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association may still have room on its seven-day spring break trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico March 4 to 11. Along with being able to attend the Campeonato Nacional Charro Rodeo, it sounds like there will be plenty of time to relax at the Sheraton Buganvillias. Cost of the trip is CDN$1,610 (based on double occupancy). Call Katherin at 1-306-690-5309 for details.
  • Livestock care in Alberta — Fresh opportunities, global perspectives and lively discussion are set to capture the spotlight at the 2016 Livestock Care Conference, March 22-23 in Olds, Alta., hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC). The Livestock Care Conference begins Tuesday, March 22, with special sessions including a sheep-handling workshop,and the AFAC Annual General Meeting. The main speaker agenda is Wednesday, March 23, kicking-off with a message from the provincial Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and a welcome and update from the AFAC Executive Director. Brenda Schoepp discusses The Interconnetion Between Human and Animal Welfare; Dr. Jennifer Walker talks Animal Welfare at the Intersection Between Politics, Policy, Profit & People; Leona Dargis presents on Animal Welfare Around the World; Dr. Alexandra Harlander discusses Hot Topics in Poultry Welfare; and Marion Popkin presents on All About Rabbits. In addition, the conference features a ‘Bear Pit’ Panel Session on “When Manure Hits the Fan.” Bear Pit panelists include Darren Vanstone of World Animal Protection, Jackie Wepruk of National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), Brandy Street of the BC.SPCA and Michelle Follensbee of the Animal Welfare Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Complete agenda details and registration information is available at www.afac.ab.ca. Follow at hashtag #LCC2016.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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