Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta will be vot­ing on plebicite

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY JAMIE RIEGER SOUTH­ERN AL­BERTA NEWS­PA­PERS

Potato grow­ers in the prov­ince will have their say on whether their check-offs should be re­fund­able or non-re­fund­able when a plebiscite is held next month.

The plebiscite comes af­ter the Al­berta govern­ment an­nounced in April last year it would give more con­trol to pro­duc­ers on how their whether or not their ser­vices charges should change from re­fund­able to non-re­fund­able.

In Septem­ber, 2017, the Mar­ket­ing of

Agri­cul­tural Prod­ucts Act was amended paving the way for the cur­rent plebiscites for Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta, as well as for Al­berta Beef Pro­duc­ers.

Ter­ence Hochstein, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta (PGA) said its mem­bers will de­cide which path the or­ga­ni­za­tion will take.

"We will take the des­tiny of Bill 43 and let our mem­bers de­cide. This is some­thing all com­mis­sions are be­ing faced with," he said. "When they changed the leg­is­la­tion 14 months ago, we passed a res­o­lu­tion at our AGM to move ahead with the plebiscite."

While Al­berta Beef Pro­duc­ers has an­nounced how their $2 check­offs would be dis­trib­uted un­der a non-re­fund­able ser­vice charge sys­tem ( $1.35 to ABP, 40 cents to a de­vel­op­ment fund, and 25 cents to Al­berta Cat­tle Feed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion), Hochstein would not dis­cuss how their check­offs are dis­trib­uted.

"It's an in­ter­nal is­sue that doesn't need to be dis­cussed in pub­lic," he said.

"We're not try­ing to hide any­thing. We will take the money and use it for re­search and what­ever other is­sues our mem­bers de­cide it should be used for. Our grow­ers will de­cide."

What works for one or­ga­ni­za­tion may not be the best ser­vice charge model for an­other which is why plebiscites are per­haps the best course of ac­tion.

"I'm a beef pro­ducer too," said Hochstein. "(Al­berta) Beef Pro­duc­ers has over 20,000 mem­bers. We have 150 mem­bers and I can talk ver­bally with all my mem­bers. We're very lucky that way,"

The Mar­ket­ing of Agri­cul­tural Prod­uct Act (MAPA) was first es­tab­lished in 1965. In April, 2009, Bill 43, the Mar­ket­ing of Agri­cul­tural Prod­ucts Amend­ment Act, was passed. Its pur­pose was to re­quire com­mis­sions to al­low their mem­bers to seek re­funds for their check-offs. The amended Act ap­plies to com­mis­sions where check-offs were non-re­fund­able: beef, pork, pota­toes, and lamb.

Pro­duc­ers of bar­ley, bi­son, canola, pulses, soft wheat, win­ter wheat, elk, bees, and for­age seeds al­ready had re­fund­able check-offs in place.

Chicken, eggs, hatch­ing eggs, turkey, dairy, sugar beets, and pro­cessed veg­eta­bles op­er­ate un­der dif­fer­ent sys­tems, such as mar­ket­ing boards or con­tract ne­go­ti­at­ing boards.

When amend­ments to Bill 43 passed in June, 2009, Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta was op­posed to the elim­i­na­tion of manda­tory check­offs and the right for pro­duc­ers to re­quest a re­fund on their check­offs.

At the time, PGA said hav­ing re­fund­able check­offs in place would un­der­mine its demo­cratic process. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also op­posed how the amended Bill 43 was in­tro­duced and should have been done through a plebiscite through MAPA as is be­ing done with the cur­rent plebiscite.

In Septem­ber, 2017, the Mar­ket­ing of

Agri­cul­tural Prod­ucts Act was amended and Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta made the re­quest to the Al­berta Agri­cul­tural Prod­ucts Mar­ket­ing Coun­cil for the up­com­ing plebiscite.

The plebiscite will take place at the PGA an­nual gen­eral meet­ing be­ing held at the River Cree Re­sort and Casino in Enoch on Nov. 15. Peo­ple also have the op­tion of vot­ing by proxy, but must have the form com­pleted and filed with the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer by Nov. 13. Those who meet the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria as out­lined in the Potato Grow­ers of Al­berta Plebiscite Reg­u­la­tion are able to vote. For ques­tions on vot­ing pro­ce­dure or to ob­tain a proxy form, con­tact the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer at 1-855-667-3311 or Al­ber­taPlebiscite2018@mnp.ca

South­ern Al­berta News­pa­pers photo by Ti­jana Mar­tin

Terry Mor­ishita, left, and Lud­wig Re­ich­eneder chat while brows­ing through the 15 new potato va­ri­eties that are be­ing re­leased by Agri­cul­ture and AgriFood Canada this year dur­ing a potato re­lease open house event at the Leth­bridge Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre.

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