AB Beef Pro­duc­ers check-off struc­ture goes to plebiscite

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

Beef pro­duc­ers in Al­berta will be able to vote on whether there should be a re­fund­able or non-re­fund­able check-off 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). Twenty-five 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 check-off, with a por­tion go­ing to Beef Canada Inc. and a por­tion to the Beef Cat­tle Re­search Coun­cil.

The $2 pro­vin­cial re­fund­able check-off is used for var­i­ous mar­ket and re­search ini­tia­tives.

The Cana­dian Cat­tle­men's As­so­ci­a­tion is funded through the pro­vin­cial check­off. 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 non-re­fund­able 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 Oc­to­ber 19, 2016 and Oc­to­ber 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 1780-415-2164. To reg­is­ter and re­quest a mail-in bal­lot, or for ques­tions re­gard­ing the vot­ing pro­ce­dure, con­tact the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer at Al­ber­taPlebiscite2018@MNP.ca

AARON BROWER

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