On Oct. 4 and 5, at the Five Nations Beef Conference, the world's largest beef producing nations discussed--and reached consensus on--a variety of issues impacting beef and the beef supply.

Attending the conference were officers and representatives of the beef producer associations of Australia (Peter Milne, president, Cattle Council of Australia), Canada (John Morrison, president, Canadian Cattlemen's Association), Mexico (Gustavo Torres Flores, president, Confederacion Nacional Ganadera), New Zealand (Tim Brittain, president, Meat New Zealand) and the United States (Lynn Cornwell, president, National Cattlemen's Beef Association). Through roundtable discussion, attendees developed a position statement covering trade reform; animal identification; environment; animal health, welfare and disease control; promotion, product quality and food safety; and advanced technologies, said the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), host of the conference.

"All the participants agree on the importance of a safe beef supply and free trade," said NCBA President Lynn Cornwell, Glasgow, MT, a cattle producer. "At the Five Nations Beef Conference, we try to translate that belief into a strategy to benefit all beef producers."

The key goal for the five nations in the next round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations is expanded participation in the WTO' elimination of all in-quota duties-tariffs; elimination of all export subsidies and export credit guarantees; substantial reductions in trade and production-distorting domestic subsidies; and elimination of technical barriers inconsistent with WTO guidelines and sound science.

"A science-based system is the only viable structure within which to evaluate trade issues," said Meat New Zealand President Tim Brittain. "By meeting face-to-face and discussing our experiences, we gain greater understanding of the process each country undergoes when evaluating a new trade issue."

The five nations agreed to continue to share information and collaborate on the development, testing and implementation of new technologies designed to assist productivity and efficiency. All the countries concur that animal identification systems can be an important tool, when used in conjunction with other measures, to support disease prevention efforts and quality control programs.

"In Canada, we have an animal identification program that complements disease prevention efforts," said Canadian Cattlemen's Association President John Morrison. "We shared information on our system at the Five Nations Beef Conference, so that other countries can learn from our experience, and industry productivity and efficiency might be increased."

The five nations recognize the role of cattle producers as original stewards of the land, and their responsibility to protect and enhance the environment. There are variations in each country's environmental concerns, but all the countries agreed on the positive contribution of the beef industry to the global environment and the importance of balance between environmental regulations and business interests.

"Our goal, as an industry, is science-based site specific solutions," said NCBA Associate Director of Environmental Affairs Faith Burns. "Recognizing environmental differences is important in all issues--water quality, air quality, endangered species and invasive species."

Recognizing that information sharing and collaboration helps avoid duplication and encourages rapid and consistent adoption of new technologies, the participants agreed to pursue application of beneficial technologies that promote animal health and welfare, quarantine, biotechnology, food safety and environmental guidelines.

"New technologies are emerging that can advance food safety, product quality and animal health," said Confederacion Nacional Ganadera President Gustavo Torres Flores. "It is important that we share our discoveries with our trade partners--and support equivalency in quality standards and product descriptions."

All the nations contribute to beef checkoff programs--and all agreed to explore joint initiatives to expand beef demand in emerging and growing markets, along with continuation and expansion of individual checkoff programs to build consumer demand.

"There was unanimous support at this year's conference for beef checkoff programs," Cornwell said. "Checkoff programs are the best way to build consumer demand."

Begun in 1983, the Five Nations Beef Conference meets every 18 months. The location rotates among the member organizations. Each country is assigned an area of responsibility and leads the discussion on its area, at the conference. The next Five Nations Beef Conference will be in New Zealand, in the spring of 2003.

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