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Merger Will Be Good For Canadian Beef Promotion

It was an inevitable process that just took some time to accept and act upon, but the merger of the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF) and the Beef Information Centre (BIC) into the new Canada Beef agency looks like a done deal, save for the legalities. The merger would also include the National Checkoff Agency.

This move will create one big dog to promote Canadian beef wherever the best opportunities arise. That’s important, as the presentsituationrestrictedbothCBE Fand BIC to specific areas of influence.

The merger is the result of a recent study carried out by the Canada Beef Working Group (CBWG), organized to deal with the impasse that BIC and CBEF created when neither could agree on how to come together on their own. That was no surprise as both organizations have very different governance, mandates and management cultures. They also both have very dedicated, dynamic and determined CEOs who as one might expect, wanted to protect their turf.

Add all that together and there was no way one organization was going to yield to the other. The best they could come up with was a strategic alliance. That was like two tomcats sharing the same feeding dish – a practical idea perhaps, but fraught with potential snarling and scrapping over the pecking order.

Another part of the impasse was the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Seemingly both organizations are very successful, well managed and are leaders in beef market development on a world-wide scale. Both are masters at extracting every possible government marketing dollar, gathering market intelligence and implementing practicalprogramsthatproduceresults. CBE F was particularly good at common-sense market-access advocacy and not afraid to rattle a few cages, including government ones. So why would anyone want to upset these happy warriors who are fighting the industry’s marketing and trade battles?

It does cause one to ponder about the masochistic nature of the beef and cattle industry. There are times when it seems that they want to create problems where none existed before. I cite the Alberta cattle checkoff fiasco, what did all that really prove except create more antagonism. But I guess it kept producers busy taking sides and talking about politics and conspiracy theories, but none of that sells beef.

But I digress. Let’s hope the merger issue goes smoothly and the organizations involved will quickly expedite the approval process. Being the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is the godfather of both groups I expect the merger will happen. The only slowdown could be governments and their agencies whose approval is needed to amalgamate the two merged groups with the National Checkoff Agency (NCA).

An important change for the new Canada Beef promotion agency is that it will not be directly involved with policy advocacy. This has to do with the amalgamation with the NCA which will include importers and exporters, and the administration of federal checkoff legislation. However, the BSE crisis, protectionist trade issues and some of our busybody government agencies have taught the cattle and beef industry that politics and beef are intertwined and need constant political and trade advocacy.

The CBWG recognized that and recommended that a separate international trade policy committee be established. That group would provide advice to national producer groups as to what advocacy is needed and where. Such a committee may be useful, but clipping the advocacy wings from a new Canada Beef agency may not be a wise approach. I note from my experience that the Australian and New Zealand meat export agencies, with whom Canada Beef will compete, have shown that they are quite willing and able to act in an aggressive advocacy role to protect their trade interests. I would suggest that the new Canada Beef promotion agency would be seen in a more effective perspective if it were an activist advocate particularly for market access.

Finally, I would like to believe that an impetus for the BIC/CBEF merger was the COOL legislation in the U.S. I expect the bigger, better Canada Beef agency will be able to make a more significant presence in American markets with more money and resources at its disposal. Perhaps even open a Canada Beef export development office in the U.S.

The irony would be delicious.

———

Seeminglybothorganizations areverysuccessful,well

managedandareleadersinbeef marketdevelopmentonaworldwide scale.

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