Guest post update from our government relations consulting team in Ottawa
As you wake up each morning, the happenings in Ottawa may be the last thing on your mind. But for NCFA, we are a team who wakes up each morning and this is the first thing on our mind.
Noblepath Strategic Consulting has served as the eyes, ears, and voice of NCFA in Ottawa for over eight years. Together as Noblepath, we are CJ Noble and Peter Brackenridge, and we work to ensure that decisions being made in Ottawa are good decisions for cattle feeders across Canada.
How do we do this? It starts with daily monitoring of the legislative, regulatory and policy agenda of the government. We identify opportunities or challenges that are coming down the pipe in Ottawa that may impact the cattle-feeding sector.
We carefully follow the legislative agenda in Parliament on matters from trade agreements to gun control and we identify when NCFA needs to engaged. We also monitor Parliamentary Committees to ensure that NCFA engages in these studies when needed. For example, this spring, NCFA appeared as a witness for the Agriculture Committee study on Public Perception of Agriculture, as well as appearing at International Trade Commnittee on the CPTPP, the HUMA Committee on foreign workers, the Ag Committee on National Food Policy, and two appearances at Finance Committee on Budgets 2017 and 2018.
The regulatory and policy work of the government officials is equally important and monitored. The Noblepath team actively works to influence decision in Ottawa on including ongoing work on animal transportation regulations, labour programs and regulation for border efficiencies. Examples of these actions include: meetings with the CFIA President and the Executive Team, the Animal Health Directorate at CFIA, the Veterinary Drug Directorate at Health Canada, the Animal Industry Division at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and industry liaison officials at the Regulatory Cooperation Council at Treasury Board Secretariat.
But it is not enough to simply react to government initiatives. We work proactively to push NCFA issues that need to be prioritized on the government agenda including rural infrastructure and consumer education. We also work with NCFA to effectively advocate for government decisions that will create the most competitive and sustainable business environment possible for cattle feeders.
But the best voices for NCFA in Ottawa are the staff and Board members themselves. NCFA staff come to Ottawa on a regular basis and Noblepath lines up a series of meetings with the key decision makers – both senior government officials as well as politicians. In addition, the NCFA Board comes to Ottawa once a year and blitzes the Hill, delivering on mass the priority messages of NCFA. Noblepath works to ensure we are providing the right messages to the right decision makers at the right time.
Eating Canadian beef is good for the environment.
Health Canada’s proposed changes to the Canada Food Guide
Canada’s Food Guide is currently under review by Health Canada, with the goal of having a revised Guide by 2018. In the spirit of full transparency, consultation is open to concerned citizens (the public), as well as health professionals and food industry members. Industry groups like National Cattle Feeders’ Association, Canada Beef, and CCA are working on submissions and additional support.
Beef Industry’s concerns with the proposed changes:
- Recommendation to lower consumption of red and processed meats, with a preference for plant-based protein choices
- A ‘protein food category’ is being recommended, rather than the Meat & Alternates and Dairy food groups. This implies all protein sources are created equal and have comparable amounts of readily-digested protein, which is incorrect.
- There is a recommendation to replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. For those concerned that red meat (beef) is a primary source of saturated fat, this information could be seen as a recommendation to reduce red meat consumption. *Link to Letters directly below here for more information.
- There is the recommendation around sustainable diets – encouraging the public to eat sustainably by choosing food produced by systems that have lower environmental impacts. Given the lack of information and misinformation circulating about beef’s impact on the environment, this may drive people to choose another protein source they perceive as more sustainable.
The Guide continues to recommend reducing consumption of saturated fats, despite “essentially overwhelming evidence now that saturated fat is not harmful in the diet and does not cause heart disease, but rather that the low fat dietary pattern has very likely caused harm”.
The NCFA has been effective in confronting and leading the charge on recent issues and opportunities impacting the cattle feeding industry.
Letter to Health Canada from the National Cattle Feeders’ Association re: Antimicrobial Resistance regulatory amendments that states NCFA supports the Antimicrobial Action Plan and the updating of prudent use regulations for veterinary pharmaceuticals. Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed, on behalf of the NCFA, worked with Dr. Manisha Mehrotra’s team in the advancement of the initiative.
Competitiveness of the Canadian Cattle Feeding sector: regulatory and policy issues, costs and opportunities
The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) Strategic Plan is built upon three pillars: Growth and Sustainability; Competitiveness; and, Industry Leadership. The strategic objective of the Competitiveness pillar is to ensure regulators and policy makers understand the business realities and priorities of the cattle feeder business, within the context of the value chain.
NCFA developed an economic analysis of the most problematic and costly federal and provincial regulations and industry practices in order to focus on the challenges that have the greatest impact on the day-to-day competitiveness of Canadian feedlot operations.
In support of the initiative, the NCFA engaged the services of Noblepath Strategic Consulting Inc. to conduct a series of focus groups to identify and prioritize regulations and/or practices impeding the competitiveness of the feedlot sector, and analyze the economic impact of the most significant impediments. RIAS Inc. partnered with Noblepath on the economic analysis portion of the project.
Canadian cattle are raised with best practices
Canada has one of the safest food systems in the world. Canadian cattle feeders are already raising their cattle humanely and have been for many years. Members of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) are proud of their track record for producing some of the world’s most affordable, nutritious, and safest beef through initiatives focussing on animal care, animal health and production, the environment, people and communities.
While the Canadian industry is supportive and understands the value that private assurance/certification programs can bring to assist consumers to make informed decisions, the Canadian beef industry has strategically chosen to take an all-of-industry approach and develop robust verification processes equivalent or superior to any private programs. The animal care practices required to earn the Certified Humane designation are already widely adopted by Canadian producers, negating the inference that Canadian beef is in some way not humanely produced.
Animal care initiatives in the Canadian cattle industry:
- National Farm Animal Care Council’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/beef-cattle is Canada’s national guide on animal health and welfare standards and is used by cattle feeders as the minimal animal care standard. The code was updated in December 2014 by a wide group of stakeholders including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), to reflect advancements in science and increased public interest in the raising of Canadian beef cattle. Canadian cattle feeders support the use of antibiotics, with veterinarian oversight, to humanely treat sick animals. The use of antibiotics is also included in the Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified HumaneÒ program guidelines.
- NCFA has developed a fully auditable Feedlot Animal Care Assessment program that is certified by the American Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) and recognized by the National Farm Animal Care Council. This code of practice — a companion document to the Beef Code — is specific to the handling and care of beef cattle on Canadian feedlots and the result of a collaborative effort by feedlot operators, packers (welfare experts from those plants were involved in program development), retail customers, veterinarians, ethologists, animal scientists, and the SPCA. Cargill, JBS, and Tyson were integral to the development of the feedlot audit. For detailed information on the program click here.
- As for steroids, levels in beef are miniscule whether the animals receive a growth promoting implant or not. The difference in hormones in treated versus non-treated beef is about two nanograms per 6 oz steak — a nonogram is one billionth of a gram. A hamburger bun has thousands of times more steroid than the burger. Producers can choose to not use growth promotants, but the net effect it has on the steroid level in the final product is negligible and certainly does not constitute a human health concern. Hormones are used in production to increase feed efficiency. This technology decreases the need for more land, water, and feed.
- Producers give their animals antibiotics to help save their lives and ease their pain and suffering. Failing to use antibiotics to treat a sick animal isn’t humane; it’s inhumane. Producers strictly observe withdrawal times to ensure all antibiotic residues are long gone before the animal goes for processing.
- The Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification program offers livestock truckers, shippers, and receivers a standardized comprehensive training course and support services that are recognized throughout North America. The certification program is addressing the demand from North American processing facilities to prove competence and certification in livestock hauling — resulting in increased accountability and improved livestock handling practices.
- NCFA fully supports the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s (CRSB) efforts to advance sustainability in the Canadian beef industry, based on its pillars of Natural Resources, People and the Community, Animal Health and Welfare, Food, Efficiency, and Innovation. The CRSB provides a common place to access information about meaningful, transparent and scientifically sound information regarding sustainable production practices and sourcing. A sustainable sourcing framework is being developed to address consumer interest in where their food comes from and how it is raised. The CRSB welcomes stakeholders to engage in Canadian conversation around sustainable beef.