Traceability is inevitable, but who pays can still be determined

Some issues within the beef industry continue to just simmer with occasional flare-ups — that would be the case with traceability.

Some issues within the beef industry continue to just simmer with occasional flare-ups — that would be the case with traceability. It caused a lot of anxiety when the concept was first proposed, particularly as it was being imposed by the federal government with a certain deadline. If there is one common trait the cattle and beef industry has from top to bottom is its acute sensitivity to new regulations.

Howls of protest emanated from various sectors, most of them related to costs when the traceability process was first announced. The feds stumbled on getting the industry to cooperate with their ham-fisted approach and little real consultation with the industry. Then they tried to mitigate a bad situation by pouring millions of dollars into getting the program going at different levels in the marketing chain. The problem for the industry was that there was no unified political consensus on how to handle the issue. That’s a surefire recipe for divide and conquer and trying to manipulate industry opinion with taxpayer dollars. With the CFIA being designated as regulator, judge and enforcer of traceability it sent a chill through anyone operating at the pleasure of the CFIA. Processors/marketers, the most sensitive to CFIA wrath, quietly fell into line mostly by just keeping quiet on the issue.

The reality is the feds have won the battle and traceability is a fact of life for the cattle and beef business and the feds are not going to retreat. If resistance continues you can expect regulations will rain down from above. Some in the marketing side of beef have stated that traceability is of no value in the export market outside of it being to traced to “Canada”. That would be similar to what our export competitors do in foreign markets. If that’s all what offshore buyers want to know about traceability then so be it. But I expect that will not be the situation with domestic and U.S. buyers maybe not immediately, but its sure to come as consumers/buyers want more meat “attributes.” For sure, one can almost expect a complete traceability requirement for future beef exports to the EU with the pending Canada/EU Free Trade agreement. In fact it’s all but guaranteed to be demanded if crafty EU negotiators see it as possible trade restriction. Remember they beat us on the hormone issue, this is just another trade mischief skirmish for the EU to win.

The nagging expectation with traceability is that its cost will just be downloaded on the primary cow/calf producer. Those folks are pretty fed up with always having to pay for these government brainstorms.

— Ahead of the Heard

 


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