Four months ago, the future of the Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF) seemed uncertain at best. But on May 27, members met in Calgary and voted unanimously to merge with Canada Beef, the new national beef-marketing organization. The three big national organizations to be folded into the umbrella super agency include the Beef Information Centre (BIC), the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Development and Promotion Agency and CBEF.
That wasn’t the case earlier in the year, when CBEF was widely anticipated to vote yes to the merger at a February 17 meeting, but adjourned early to avoid holding the vote at all.
“It was a controversial move, and it was, I am sure, a very difficult move to contemplate and then enact. It led initially to a great deal of disruption with members leaving and threatening statements and all kinds of stuff like that taking place, but it resulted in a much more positive outcome,” said Ted Haney, president of CBEF. “Their actions, controversial as they were at the time, I think now can be recognized as a key moment toward resolution.”
The merger to form the larger agency came as a recommendation from the Canada Beef Working Group (CBWG). Haney says CBEF simply wasn’t prepared to vote on whether to merge because the specifics of how the new super agency would function were sparse.
“There was very little in terms of governance structure that demonstrated accountabilities, there was very little that guaranteed competencies of board members and that concept was very concerning to current CBEF members. Secondly, there was no consolidation agreement, nor were there even principles or processes outlined for how a consolidation would take place,” Haney said.
Had the vote taken place at the February 17 meeting, the results could have spelled the end of CBEF entirely. “It was being asked to dissolve the federation and consolidate itself into a new organization, but from a conceptional perspective. There was enough concern that the outcome of that somewhat underdeveloped process would have resulted in a rejection, not just less than 75 per cent, but a rejection of the proposal completely which would have ended the debate, discussion and engagement.”
Instead of risking a vote and an outcome which would have prevented CBEF from ever merging, the adjournment bought everyone some time. However, the adjournment did result in casualties, seven members representing provincial cattle organizations resigned their memberships. While that left nearly 50 members, the provincial groups are together responsible for the lion’s share of CBEF’s budget.
Despite the uproar resulting from the surprise adjournment, Haney says everyone buckled down to flesh out the details of the merger. “Since that time, we started with a fair bit of unrest in the industry, but that has coalesced into some very productive engagement by all the parties involved resulting in a significantly enhanced and improved suggested governance model for the new organization, as well as an agreed-to set of principles that will guide the consolidation of the BIC and CBEF into the soon-to-be restructured national checkoff agency.”
So much progress was made, that the CBEF board voted unanimously in favour of calling a special general meeting to vote on the merger. “I say congratulations for those who found a way through an incredibly difficult moment and identified a path forward that resulted in further development of a concept to a proposal,” said Haney.
At the May 27 vote, all 31 members in attendance voted in favour of the merger. “It was a congenial and anticlimatic meeting, which means that a strong consensus had been built prior to our membership coming together. You can’t do better than unanimous approval to proceed,” Haney said shortly after the vote took place.
“We will move from the notice period into the transition period and we begin the process of moving the programs, people, assets and liabilities from CBEF to the new Canada Beef organization currently known as the National Check-off Agency,” said Haney.
– TED HANEY, CBEF PRESIDENT