Faced with declining checkoff dollars, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is looking to merge its two marketing arms.
The roles of the Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF) and the Beef Information Council (BIC) are currently under review with an eye on cutting costs, said Brad Wildeman, former head of the CCA who is currently co-chair of the Canada Beef Working Group charged with overseeing the process.
“We want to make sure that we’re making the most efficient use of those dollars and there’s expertise in both of those organizations that likely could be shared,” said Wildeman, on the sidelines of the CCA semi-annual meeting.
The future of the two organizations, with about 50 staff, will be reviewed by the 10-member Canada Beef Working Group from groups representing CBEF, CCA, BIC, and the Canadian Cattlemen Market Development Council.
Two of the 10 represent processors XL Foods and Cargill Meat Solutions, and the rest are beef producers from Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Alberta.
“We know that checkoff money is going to go down because cow numbers are down,” said Wildeman. The decline in herd numbers that began in 2005 has continued up to the present, and represents a general industry trend. In the United States, he noted, the herd is the smallest in 60 years.
An expected return to a cyclical uptrend in the cattle business this fall will cut further into the pool of checkoff funds available, creating a feedback loop. More retained heifers will mean even less animals going to market, he added.
Also, effective April 1, the Alberta government made the $1-per-head national checkoff payment refundable to producers. The effect of the change in the province which produces 65 per cent of the country’s beef is not known because it depends on how many ask for their money back.
In face of that reality, the need for a “more dynamic” and “unified” marketing vision is needed in order to convince government and the industry to continue to support such efforts.
“We don’t care where the beef tongues are being sold, as long as it’s bringing the most value,” said Wildeman.
Some staff from both organizations may have to be cut, he said. If possible, it will be done through natural attrition such as retirements.
Wildeman emphasized that the review is not being undertaken due to any failure on the part of the staff, who he said have always done their duties in line with the directions given them by CCA executives.
“This is not about going in there and hacking and cutting,” he said.
Cost savings gained through the amalgamation may arise due to more efficient use of utilities, office space, shared administrative duties and communications issues.
The “broad brush strokes” of how the two organizations will be housed under one umbrella are due by late September before a final decision is made later in November, he said.
“Wedon’tcarewhere thebeeftonguesare beingsold,aslongasit’s bringingthemostvalue.”