Have cow-calf producers been abandoned in the BSE recovery process?
Is there a future in the cattle business?
Is the beef industry being well served by its leaders?
In no particular order of importance, these are just a few of the questions expected to be posed when the Renfrew County Cattlemen's Association holds its 2006 annual meeting Jan. 19 in Eganville, 7:30 pm, at Opeongo High School.
Here are a few more questions spelled out by meeting organizers: How can industry stakeholders rise to the challenge and survive what are still trying times? How well are decision-makers informed of the needs of producers?
On hand to try to provide answers will be keynote speaker Charlie Gracey, cattle industry analyst with over 35 years of experience.
"Gracey always puts an interesting twist on the situation," said Wilson Rae, a Forester's Falls cow-calf operator and president of the Renfrew Cattlemen.
Former manager and executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association for 20 years, Gracey was assigned to the Canadian Trade Tribunal in 1990.
A member of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, he was instrumental in establishing the Canadian Cattle Identification System and in privatizing the Canadian Beef Grading Program.
Also on the meeting agenda will be Ian McKillop, president of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association who will comment on a strategic plan for the industry.
It'll be the first somewhat good news annual meeting for Renfrew Cattlemen since the BSE crisis broke in May 2003, "somewhat" because the Canadian industry has yet to return to pre-crisis export levels.
That crisis was finally resolved a few months ago, with beef shipments to the U.S. and Japan gradually resuming.
In Renfrew, prices are as good as they have ever been for "well-prepared" calves with vaccinations and whose owners have been "watching the genetics", Rae said. Meanwhile, prices for mature cows still not what they should be.
"The mood is definitely much more optimistic than it was in January, 2004," Rae concluded.