Potato Growers of Alberta will be voting on plebicite
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
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.