Part 3: Delivering Traceability
THAT THE NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION TAG REQUIRE A LOGO WITH UP TO ONE SYMBOL, WITH THE OPTION OF AN ADDITIONAL SYMBOL, AND THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENT BEING THE CANADIAN MAPLE LEAF, AND THAT THE UNIQUE NATIONAL NUMBER BE PRINTED ON THE TAG. –
MINUTES OF THE CANADIAN CATTLE IDENTIFICATION AGENCY BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING, APRIL 1999.
The People Who Make it Happen
No organization is likely to succeed without the hard work and commitment of its staff, dedicating themselves to delivering the vision of its leadership. In the mid-90s Carl Block and a number of other like-minded industry leaders came together to make their vision of a Canada wide livestock traceability system a reality. As discussed in previous chapters, the CCIA was formerly founded in 1998 with a mandate to administer a traceability program, but who was going to run it?
The answer to that question came in the form of Julie Stitt, the first General Manager of the, then, fledgling Canadian Cattle Identification Agency.
Julie had already been long involved in the Canadian livestock industry, working with purebred and commercial cattle associations in the development of performance programs, genetic research projects, value-add initiatives, and education. By the mid-90s Julie had begun working with the Canadian Cattlemen Association (CCA) on the initial framework for a national ID program, work which would eventually help spearhead the formal introduction of the CCIA.
Taking on the leadership of the CCIA was no easy task. Initially there was considerable resistance to the introduction of a mandatory ID program, with many grassroots producers and industry sectors suspecting that it was a government scheme interfering with their operations and affecting the speed of commerce.,. Julie, with the support and assistance of Charlie Gracey and Carl Block attended hundreds of meetings across Canada to inform producers that the CCIA was an industry initiated and led body, and that the program was designed to protect the health and safety of the industry, especially with the significant reliance on exporting to international markets.
Grassroots producers initially found the concept of the CCIA, and mandatory tagging, difficult to buy into. Push back ranged from letters and petitions sent to the CCIA offices, to death threats, the hostility to the program was that strong. Nevertheless, with the support of key early staff member Nadine Meade and other important staff, and with Charlie Gracey acting as an industry advisor, Julie pushed forward with her team to deliver on the program that Carl Block believed so passionately in.
In those early years, this simply meant tagging an animal before it left its herd of origin and then reading the tag at the packing plant. The traceability program initially went live in January 2000, with full CFIA enforcement coming into effect from July 2002. Despite continued resistance from certain parts of industry the tagging compliance rate steadily rose.
However, things were to change in 2003 when, in a defining moment for traceability, BSE struck Canada. Very quickly people began to recognize the benefit of the mandatory identification program, and a huge jump in compliance followed the outbreak. The CLTS database, originally built by QC Data in Calgary, was proved to work, with the CFIA quickly managing to obtain the identification and traceback data it needed, helping to validate the many arguments that had been made for giving producers a world class traceability system to help protect their herds, as well as their livelihoods.
In 2004 this led the CCIA to being awarded the Canadian Information Productivity Award for Excellence in Innovation and Technology.
Under the CCIA Board’s direction, Juile and her team continued their work in collaboration with the government, the Canadian livestock industry, and other key stakeholders, to ensure the CLTS continued to meet domestic and international animal health and food safety regulatory requirements to protect and ensure competitiveness in the global market in a practical and efficient manner.
The objective to develop an animal health and food safety traceback program to increase consumer confidence, ensure market access, and remain competitive, was achieved and Julie Stitt left the CCIA in 2008 with Carl Block’s vision for the industry having become a reality.
Led by General Manager Anne Brunet-Burgess since 2015, the CCIA, under the direction of its Board, continues to benefit from having the right people within its team to deliver an evolving world class traceability and identification program that all of industry can be proud of.
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