Canada Beef Inc. full steam ahead!

Canada Beef Inc. full steam ahead!
by Bonnie Warnyca - 9, 2011

With the announcement of Robert J. Meijer as the new president and CEO and the appointment of a 16-member Board of Directors, Canada Beef Inc. has established its new presence in the beef industry.

While on the outside, the progress appears to have been fast-tracked, new CBI Board chair, Brad Wildeman, refers to it as a five-year, overnight success.

"A few years ago the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) tendered a framework study to look at the possibility of pulling all our national and international marketing efforts together," says Wildeman.

"While the two studies were conducted independently, with different stakeholders, they both showed an overwhelming support for a single-marketing agency and that there were synergies that could be captured by doing so. Since then, there has been a lot of support from the funding parties, namely the provincial cattle organizations, to move this forward."

The Canadian Beef Export Federation, the Beef Information Centre and the Canadian Beef cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency have all been wound down and both former CBEF's and BIC's CEO's have been replaced by Meijer.

As Meijer officially begins his position September 1, in the new CBI office located in Calgary, the next leg of the business plan begins.

"There is a lot to accomplish over the next few months," admits Wildeman. "We have committees to finalize, bylaws to write and a new long-term strategic and marketing plan to construct. We also need to secure funding beyond 2015, when the old Legacy Fund runs out."

We're also told that during the strategic planning session, all existing programs and services will be up for review and based on the results of the review, further changes could still be made to the final structure of Canada Beef.

The Canada Beef board has already set an ambitious goal of having a strategic and marketing plan to present to stakeholders by December. Part of that plan is to create a new measurement of performance to satisfy industry's call for more accountability for their check-off dollars.

"There is a new committee struck called the Planning and Priorities committee, to come up with a performance metric," Wildeman tells us.

"We can no longer measure our marketing success by volume. With a smaller national herd, we obviously have less to sell than in the past. Moving forward, the opportunities lie in being able to increase the value of currently undervalued cuts of beef. The cattle feeders, for instance, would like to be able to compare the price we're selling our beef to the American price points."

Meanwhile, Wildeman assures us that it's been business as usual during the transition and that the delivery of all national and international programs has continued unaffected by the sweeping changes. The switch from CBEF foreign offices to the new CBI offices is underway and many of the former employees of both CBEF and BIC in Canada have found positions within the new marketing body.

What will be different?
"In the past, producers have been asked annually to choose where they wanted their check-off dollars to be spent between export marketing, domestic marketing and research for the beef industry," says Wildeman.

"This new agency will be solely responsible for all the marketing of Canadian Beef and the lobbying for dollars for the individual players is eliminated. Producers have asked for more accountability and now with the structure within Canada Beef Inc., they will have it."

With a firm count still unavailable, there is reported to be about 42 board positions and several key management positions, including more than $1 M in salaries and infrastructure eliminated with the creation of the one umbrella organization.

Besides the CBEF and BIC boards, CCMD also had a board and administrative staff and before Canada Beef Inc. there was the Global Marketing Advisory Committee which was a national committee to advise the industry on strategy.

In an effort to prove to producers that this new agency heralds a new era of inclusiveness and accountability, the Annual Meeting now becomes the Annual Forum. It is to be an annual event which will deliver the year's marketing targets and results. Slated for some time next summer or fall, the first Annual Forum will include the first Canada Beef Inc. board elections (selected from funding stakeholders) with an opportunity for directors at large to be nominated from the floor.

"Our fiscal year end is the end of March," continues Wildeman. "After we have audited financial statements, we plan to put together this significant annual event, one which we believe producers will find both interesting and informative."

Robert Meijer, B.C., B.Sc. is a former Director of Corporate Affairs for Cargill Limited. He was responsible for Cargill's Canadian government/regulatory relations, communication, and community relation activities. He has an extensive background in the beef industry ranging from domestic and international marketing to trade and regulatory issues.
Meijer has also held a number of board and/or committee positions with the Federal Roundtables, Flax Council of Canada, Malt Industry Association of Canada, Canadian Poultry Processors Association, Animal Nutrition Association of Canada, Western Grain Elevator Association, Canada Grains Council and the Canadian Meat Council.