In this case, one head is better than three. Canada Beef Inc. – formed by the merger of Canadian Beef Export Federation, the Beef Information Centre, and the National Check-off Agency – is ready to hit the ground running now that it has a board and chief executive, says the chair of the new agency.
“This was obviously an important milestone in that the work of the implementation team is completed,” said Brad Wildeman, past president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).
“We have the new board in place. We’ve had our first board meeting and we’ve hired a new boss. We have a new management structure with people in place. There’s still more things to be done, but we’re to the point now where we have the staff in the right place and we can start operating like a real organization.”
Wildeman, a feedlot operator from Lanigan, Saskatchewan, helped to spearhead the one beef-marketing agency concept and was co-chair of the implementation team.
The Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF) and Beef Information Centre (BIC) sometimes had conflicting agendas, even though both were created to increase beef sales.
“That wasn’t their fault because we created that,” said Wildeman. “They were in competition for checkoff dollars because every province made an allocation based on what they believed was in their best interests. We had a lot of smart and committed people working for both organizations and yet there was virtually no communication between staffs. As much as they tried not to say that, I think they viewed themselves as competing.”
The BSE crisis prompted cattle organizations and government agencies to initiate many new pro- grams and policies to simultaneously safeguard and stimulate beef sales, but many had a price tag that an already beleaguered industry was forced to pay. Producers also became weary of the bureaucratic burden that seemed to accompany every new beef-related strategy.
“There was a lot of dissension and displeasure in the country about what the hell we were doing,” said Wildeman. “And some people made the connection of BIC to the CCA and all these other kinds of inter-organizational things.”
Wildeman said that discontent arose when CBEF would wade into policy-making because sometimes the policies the agency would lobby for were in direct contrast to the beliefs held by the organizations funding CBEF through checkoffs.
“We’ve decided we don’t need another policy-generating organization. We’ve got National Cattle Feeders, the CCA, and every provincial cattle association and a number of others and they are all doing policy. So why would we have our actual market people doing policy?” asked Wildeman.
The time for that is ripe for an agency focused exclusively on marketing beef, he said.
“We’ve finally got past BSE where all we were trying to think about is how to get rid of all the volume. But we’re at a point now where markets are starting to reopen, beef supply is down so now it’s not so much about getting rid of it. Now we can start to focus on value and that’s a different equation. We know these next few years are going to be good for the cow-calf industry and I think the timing couldn’t be better.”
The new organization will be led by Robert Meijer, who most recently served as Cargill Canada’s director of corporate affairs and government relations. Neither CBEF president Ted Haney or Glenn Brand, CEO of BIC, will have a role, although both were considered.
“When we found Rob, we thought we had the package we wanted,” said Wildeman. “A fresh face, lots of market intelligence, worked for a company who knows a lot about selling beef domestically and worldwide. We’ve come to terms with both of them, Glenn accepted a severance package and we appreciate that he’s been gracious. Ted has been continuing to work for CBEF because it was a stand-alone organization and it has to wind up operations.”
No ties to CCA
Wildeman said it’s important for people to know Canada Beef Inc. is a stand-alone organization, with no formal ties to the CCA.
“We have gone to great lengths to show that this is a separate organization, funded separately and it’s got one mission and one mission only: To sell Canadian beef for the highest value somewhere in the world that will net back the most value to stakeholders,” he said.
Also on the board are Dane Guignion, (Manitoba Cattle Producers Association) as vice-chair, Brian Read (XL Meats) as planning and priorities chair, Scott Ellerton (Sysco Canada Inc.) as finance/ audit and program performance measurement chair, Mike Kennedy (Cargill Foods) as international beef trade access policy advisory chair, and Chuck MacLean (chairman, Alberta Beef Producers) as governance chair.
“Therewasalotofdissensionand displeasureinthecountryaboutwhat thehellweweredoing.”