Beef producer check-off structure goes to plebiscite
Beef producers in Alberta will be able to vote on whether there should be a refundable or non-refundable checkoff when the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council will be conducting a plebiscite from Oct. 19 to Nov. 13. Alberta Beef Producers, the entity that oversees the funds, put forth a request to the marketing council for the plebiscite. According to a press release from ABP, "under the proposed funding structure, ABP would retain $1.35 per head of the $2 check-off, which is approximately the amount we currently retain after refunds are issued. The ABP allocation includes 53 cents per head to support the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and a rebate paid to check-off remitters, currently five cents per head. ABP and ACFA agreed that 40 cents per head, close to $1.4 million per year, would be contributed to the ABIDF (Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund). Twentyfive cents per head, close to $850,000 per year, would be allocated to the ACFA to cover operational costs and their commitment to the National Cattle Feeders' Association. Producers who do not want 25 cents per head to go to ACFA may apply to have this money allocated to the ABIDF. The Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund, would be where a portion of the non-refundable check-off would be placed for research and technology transfers, market development, education, consumer advocacy, and industry collaboration. This fund would be governed by a council of industry partners appointed by ABP and ACFA. It is expected that the check-off would provide approximately $1.4 million a year to the development fund. Alberta check-offs went from mandatory to refundable in 2010. ABP collects and administers the check-off, as well as the $1 national nonrefundable checkoff, with a portion going to Beef Canada Inc. and a portion to the Beef Cattle Research Council. The $2 provincial refundable checkoff is used for various market and research initiatives. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is funded through the provincial check-off. While the question may seem like a straight-forward one for some to answer, there are a number of underlying concerns for many cattle producers Aaron Brower, president of Western Stock Growers' Association, said there are issues with the structure itself, as well as with not having all sectors of the industry represented "If it's non-refundable, then the $2 stays with the ABP. Then, $1.35 goes to ABP, 40 cents to the development fund, and 25 cents to Cattle Feeders, who would get about $850,000 and they do pay into it, too. This would cover their membership fees (and operational costs)," said Brower. "ABP will still be getting the money, but it won't be going into research and development. The money is for research and development, not for balancing budgets. Put all of the money into research and development, get everybody around the table, the packers, the producers, the grocers, everybody." Brower is not completely against the non-refundable check-off, he said there is a lot of work to be done before it is a fair service charge model. "It's a good idea, but it's not flushed out enough," he said. In an article in the June 8 Grass Routes newsletter, an ABP publication, it states, "together the two groups (Alberta Beef Producers and Alberta Cattle Feeders Association) are looking for producers to support a return to a non-refundable service charge, or provincial check-off, in a plebiscite that we hope will be held this fall. This would ensure stable funding to maintain the current annual budgets for ABP and ACFA, support for Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA), and the work done on behalf of producers and the beef industry." ABP and ACFA are pushing producers to vote for the nonrefundable check-off is for the creation of the Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF). "This plebiscite represents an enormous opportunity for producers and our industry. Producers have the chance to decide how their commission should be funded and the industry has the chance to invest another $2.2 to $2.5 million annually in strategic projects to make it stronger," said Charlie Christie, ABP chair. Should the results show in favour of a non-refundable service charge model, changes to ABP's regulations will be necessary for the change to take effect; changes that will require the approval of the ABP, the Marketing Council, and the Government of Alberta.
Should the results show in favour of a refundable service charge, there would be no change to the current structure or regulations. Refundable check-offs allow for a full or partial refund to be returned to producers at their request while non-refundable- service charge would remain with the commission without the ability for producers to request a refund.
"At the request of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and in accordance with the provisions of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act and the Alberta Beef Producers Plebiscite Regulation, Marketing Council is conducting a plebiscite from October 19 to November 13, 2018, on the question of the ABP’s service charge model," reads a statement by the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council.
Those who have sold cattle and paid a service charge to the ABP between Oct. 19, 2016 and Oct. 19, 2018, and meet the eligibility criteria outlined in Section 3 of the Alberta Beef Producers Plebiscite Regulation are eligible to vote. Beef producers will be able to register to vote one of three ways:
1. In-person at polling stations at ABP Fall Regional Meetings.
2. In-person at any Agriculture Financial Services Corporation Office.
3. By contacting the Returning Officer at AlbertaPlebiscite2018@mnp.ca to receive a Mail-in Ballot
The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act was established in 1965, with a marketing council being responsible for facilitating the establishment of agricultural boards and commissions, as well as for supervising their operations. In 1987, the Act was amended to enable refundable commissions to form, and in 2009, to adjust for the challenges of a complex industry. There are currently 20 marketing boards and commissions in the province, with marketing boards operating as non-refundable organizations and commissions operating as refundable organizations.
In April, 2017, the Alberta government announced that it would support agricultural commissions by giving producers more autonomy to choose which service charge model would work best for their industry. The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act was amended the following September to include choice between refundable or non-refundable service charges.
For general inquiries, contact Alberta Agriculture and Forestry's Ag-Info line at 310-FARM (3276) or the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council at 1-780-4152164. To register and request a mail-in ballot, or for questions regarding the voting procedure, contact the returning officer at AlbertaPlebiscite2018@MNP.ca