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Carbon Emission Agreements Worry Cattle Producers

“You want to be harmonized.”

– JOHN MASSWOHL, CCA

Canada’s cattle producers are waiting nervously to see how international agreements on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will affect their industry.

The immediate concern is about what will emerge from the United Nation’s world conference currently underway in Copenhagen. Nearly 200 nations are working toward a political agreement on climate change.

But legislation currently in the United States Congress may have an even impact on cattle producers than Copenhagen will.

Both the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives have bills requiring major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Sectors covered include electricity and natural gas production, pet roleum ref ining and industry.

The House has passed its bill. The Senate has not. Both bills, when adopted, must be combined into one for President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The laws would cap emissions and launch a carbon trading system – the so-called “cap and trade.”

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month paved the way for regulating carbon dioxide emissions by ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and the environment.

Producers are trying to predict how U. S. laws may be translated into Canadian rules affecting them.

The federal Conservative government had promised to announce its own emissions regulations before Copenhagen. But that’s on hold.

The government says it will now wait until the Copenhagen meeting produces a result and U. S. laws come into effect.

So far there’s no indication how, or even if, agriculture will be affected by U. S. legislation.

If it is, Canada must harmonize its regulations with the U. S. to avoid “collateral damage” to its beef industry, said Peggy Strankman, environmental affairs manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

That could mean U. S. tariffs on Canadian beef and cattle if they are considered less “green” than U. S. product, she said.

Even if agriculture is not regulated, other industries almost certainly will be, which means higher costs for input buyers, said Strankman.

For that reason, Canadian producers need access to “an effective, practical offset system” to trade carbon credits and mitigate higher costs, she said.

John Masswohl, CCA’s government and international relations director, said regulatory differences between Canada and the U. S. can be very costly to producers.

That’s the case with Canada’s specified risk materials (SRM) removal policy, which requires packers in this country to remove more material from carcasses at a greater cost than American plants.

That makes Canadian packers uncompetitive and passes higher costs back to producers, Masswohl said.

“You want to be harmonized. You want to avoid getting off the harmonized path in pursuit of some benefit that might not materialize and impose costs at the same time.” [email protected]

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