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October 20, 2022 Checking in with ABP

Highlights from the Chair | Strength in numbers

It’s been a busy summer, with a return to conferences and events. As we continue trying to stabilize from the drought, herd dispersals and low feed supplies, I am actually optimistic. Everything is signaling the promise of strong calf prices. The question is: how strong do they need to be to help us recover? Or to help us retain producers or attract the next generation? Or to help us be sustainable as an industry?

Many producers were forced to spend a lot of money last season for expensive feed and inputs. Many are tired. In an industry where so many factors have worked against us, we can only hope things start to work for us. It is my sincere hope that we don’t have just one good payday, like in 2015, but that we reap the benefits of the hard work and heart we put in each and every year.

I write this after returning from the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC) in Penticton, BC. Attendance was high, and the outlook was positive for fall calf prices and feed availability going into winter. 

The ranch tours at CBIC showed us how difficult it is ranching in unforgiving environments under challenging conditions: drought, heat, fires, and limited pastures and water. It showed me the importance of strength in numbers, and that we need to combine our efforts through alliances with groups and organizations outside of our own industry, and especially with environmental conservation groups working to sustain the land, wildlife, native grasslands and species at risk.

At CBIC, we also had the opportunity to attend meetings with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Mexican delegates. Discussions highlighted the immediate need to be proactive in addressing foot and mouth disease in case this disease is introduced to North America. 

The NCBA also offered reassurance of their stance against Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). All three countries are aligned on the importance of it not being reinstated. 

Back at the office, our ABP staff continue to be in close contact with the Alberta government and Canadian Cattle Association (CCA), to seek a better understanding of the Federal government’s fertilizer emission’s reduction target. The approach is to reduce Canada’s fertilizer emissions 30 percent from 2020 levels, by 2030. 

We realize this won’t only affect grain farmers – it affects us all. We are keeping a close eye on it, and maintaining an open line of communication with the provincial government and other provinces. Consumers need to know that this legislation will cause higher prices and less selection at the grocery store, because growers just won’t be able to grow as much. 

Fertilizer is the issue today, but there will be others down the road. It highlights the importance of getting consumers more involved in thinking about, talking about and defending the sources of their healthy, diverse food supply. Issues like these cause confusion and concern for the industry. Again, there is strength in numbers, and we need to work together. 

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredible support we received from our consumers with the recent front of label packaging issue. We saw huge support through the CCA’s “Don’t Label My Beef” campaign. Consumers stood up for our beef. It’s another example of the importance of involving consumers more directly in learning about, and staying connected to the industry that grows and raises their food. 

I would also like to acknowledge our staff at ABP for the incredible job they did putting together the Stampede Summit in July. More than twice as many people came than we expected. Whenever you say the word “beef” people show up. We’re a popular commodity! It was a great way to have the whole board exposed to some of our elected government officials, at both the provincial and federal levels. It was a great success. 

Looking forward, we will be keeping an eye on what’s going on with the fertilizer situation and we will continue talks with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), to strongly encourage increased awareness and develop an action plan in regard to foot and mouth disease. As the province with the highest number of cattle in our country, we need to be extremely diligent. 

At the 2021 Calgary Stampede, the Minister of Agriculture announced the beef competitiveness study, which is trying to address profitability down the value chain to producers. Supply management is not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for ways to be profitable in this volatile market. This is something that we are continuing to work on. We expect results of the study to be available at the end of November 2022. We are eager for the results and directives that will stem from the study and help us see more fairness in margins of better returns for producers. 

At ABP there is never a lack of issue or opportunity and we continue to work hard on behalf of producers and our industry to navigate successful outcomes. 

As we prepare for what forecasters are predicting to be an extremely cold winter, I hope that this fall harvest is a safe one for you and your family, and one that brings the returns of profitable calf prices, replenished feed supplies and pocketbooks.

This article was first published in Volume 2 Issue 4 of ABP Magazine (October 2022). Watch for more digital content from the magazine on ABP Daily.

About the Author

Melanie Wowk and her husband operate Wowk Ranch, a multigenerational cow-calf operation near Beauvallon. Melanie has also been primarily a cow-calf veterinarian since 1993, operating her own practice, and she now works in the pharmaceutical industry. Melanie has served on the ABP board as Finance Chair, Vice Chair, and Chair.


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