ALMA Helping Move From Status Quo To New Market Reality

“What we are is something new, something different and something relevant.”

Alberta’s livestock and meat industry continues to face complex issues, extending beyond provincial and even national borders. They are issues that demand a move from traditional thinking and traditional strategies. That is why the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) was incorporated almost one year ago – to act as a catalyst for change to achieve an internationally respected, competitive and profitable livestock and meat industry.

What does ALMA bring to the table? In practical terms, we offer three components: ideas, information and investment. Since opening our doors, we’ve made significant progress on all three fronts.

On the investment side, ALMA has received 226 program applications and approved more than $11 million allocated for 64 projects, with another 134 projects pending. Projects are part of $30 million in new grant funding intended to create new markets and products for all livestock sectors.

Alberta Pork was one of the grant recipients. Executive director Paul Hodgman says ALMA’s contribution to its consumer awareness campaign during the H1N1 crisis was invaluable. Dr. Heather Bruce of the University of Alberta received ALMA funding for a research project using light spectroscopy for meat grading. She says ALMA’s support is a testament to the vision of the meat industry in Alberta and its commitment to providing the best product possible.

Other recipients echo those comments. Gary Etherington of Border Beef tells us funding from ALMA helped that organization stage a successful producer-based event this summer that looked at current problems and potential solutions in the beef industry. Katherine Loughlin, market development manager with Alberta Milk, says ALMA funds have supported development of an artisan cheese-making training centre that will result in niche market opportunities in Western Canada.

ALMA also provided $886,000 towards the development of the fed cattle portion of the Cattle Price Insurance Program offered by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. We’re working with Alberta Beef Producers and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to help fund information monitors in auction markets to deliver cattle prices, drought information and sales statistics.

FOUR PRIORITIES

Regardless of the project, programs must meet one of ALMA’s four key priorities: market access, demand, information flow and competitiveness. These priorities are aimed at all livestock commodity groups. They encompass the entire supply chain from the producer to the consumer and they look at affecting both domestic and global markets.

Market access has been a pivotal focus since ALMA’s inception. ALMA took part in the 2009 federal Asian mission and was a catalyst for opening borders to Canadian beef in Hong Kong. Earlier this month, several ALMA board members met with a working group of Japanese business representatives in Tokyo to help understand the barriers to Japan for Alberta meat products. The intent was to draw together Japanese and Canadian industry stakeholders to develop a co-ordinated, industry-led campaign to increase market access into Japan, and co-ordinate the definition of import protocols between Canada and Japan. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canada Beef Export Federation took an active role in the meeting and will continue to work with us moving forward. As well, ALMA has had encouraging discussions with industry partners, such as the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Market Access Secretariat to work together on common market access files.

Regardless of the project, ALMA has brought its unique role to bear to stimulate change and success. We aren’t another livestock or meat industry organization. We aren’t another government department. Nor are we another business, corporation, partnership or cooperative.

What we are is something new, something different and something relevant.

ALMA was created to spur change and the members of our board reflect the skills we need to make the livestock and industry internationally respected, competitive and profitable. Around our board table we have expertise in world trade, international food exports, agriculture communications and finance as well as food retailing, procurement and distribution. We also use the expertise of five industry advisory committees for input and advice.

We all agree status quo in the livestock and meat industry isn’t delivering the results that the industry desires. ALMA is helping move the needle forward.

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