“We want to be involved”
Gordon Cove is a team player, a partnership kind of guy and, as the new president and CEO of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), he hopes it rubs off on Alberta’s multi-billion-dollar livestock industry.
In an interview, Cove said he wants his organization to always drive forward, but ALMA won’t always want to be in the driver’s seat with programs to rebuild and expand Alberta’s reputation as a world leader in all livestock sectors. He says he is more than willing to take a supporting role, with the ALMA budget as a prop.
ALMA operated this first year, including set-up costs, capitalization and programs, with a $56-million budget. It is a standalone agency that reports to the ALMA board, not to Alberta Agriculture. Starting the next fiscal year April 1, 2010, it will have a $39-million budget allocation, and Cove says funding will always impact programming. That’s why he says he wants quality programs to move the livestock industry forward – get a bigger bang for the buck.
He has already had a taste of programming, overseeing approval of 10 applications under the ALMA Beef Product Market Development Program, granting more than $2.9 million to industry, all with some input to help develop and deliver the Alberta Livestock and Meat Strategy.
Appointed to the top administration post for ALMA last month, Cove comes with extensive experience in the hog industry, mostly with Olymel in Red Deer before cutting his teeth in food processing and livestock products for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
Cove said his appointment ended a position search that started in February to succeed Ken Moholitny. In his previous roles with ALMA, Cove helped develop and implement the strategy. With his past private-sector experience, he was instrumental in developing ALMA programs and was a vital link to the meat industry.
ROLE AS CATALYST
ALMA was introduced to mixed reviews in some livestock circles, and the board and staff has focused on educating industry to its role and how it plans to work with industry to meet ALMA goals.
Cove says he wants to help ALMA achieve its mandate as a catalyst for innovation and competitiveness in the sector, working towards an internationally respected, competitive and profitable livestock and meat industry.
To claim a love relationship with everything full speed ahead is overkill, he said. “This will take time.” He expects industry to continue to move forward, to buy into the ALMA philosophy in moving the livestock industry forward. “We want to be involved.”
Funds for more projects will be announced soon as part of ALMA’s $30-million suite of catalyst programs as well as two Growing Forward programs worth $10.27 million. The programs will allow ALMA to drive change as it supports industry through ideas, information and resources. Cove said he can’t elaborate until the final plans are hammered out.
But status quo for Alberta’s livestock industry is not in the plan. “Billions of dollars have gone into the industry,” he said, mostly to bail out producers slammed by BSE and other factors beyond their control. ALMA wants to work for new ways to look at industry issues, to get some positive results, to “figure a better way to do it.”
ALMA has also announced approval of 30 industry projects totally more than $3 million. Projects funded include support for an innovative approach to European Union market penetration, as well as research on meat grading technology and food safety improvements. The projects include an H1N1 influenza consumer reassurance strategy that will show that pork is a safe and important source of protein. As well, a project on ready-to-eat meats that will improve quality and safety for consumers and create new opportunities for producers. Sheep producers received funding for a sheep symposium.