Alberta Beef Producers is entering a new decade with a brand new look.
Along with a major overhaul of its structure — shrinking its board, roster of delegates and number of meetings — the organization is being led by a woman for the first time in its 50-year history.
New chair Kelly Smith-Fraser paid tribute to a host of previous female cattle industry leaders.
“I recognize that they are the ones who paved the way for me to get here, and I appreciate the legwork and the hard work that they have done,” the seedstock producer from Pine Lake said in an interview.
“Some of them didn’t have the easiest of circumstances. I’ve got to know a lot of those ladies through my years on ABP and before that, and a lot of them are my heroes.
Smith-Fraser — who operates NuHaven Cattle Company, a purebred Maine-Anjou seedstock farm — previously served as a delegate, finance chair, and vice-chair. Joining her on the executive are Melanie Wowk from Beauvallon as vice-chair and Brad Osadczuk from Jenner as finance chair. Charlie Christie from Trochu will serve a one-year term as past chair.
Smith-Fraser said her main priority is to implement the new structural changes.
And there’s a lot of those after delegates endorsed a reorganization plan at the group’s annual general meeting earlier this month.
The board is being shrunk by a quarter (to 12 directors — all chosen at the AGM), the number of delegates by a third (to 35 reps), and the number of zones by nearly half (to five, from nine previously, with each zone having at least one director).
“We’ll have geographic representation, but it will come from the entire delegate body,” said Smith-Fraser.
The streamlining is partly a cost-saving move but also a response to the failed checkoff plebiscite a year ago. After years of effort, the organization obtained permission from the province to hold a vote that would make the $2 provincial beef checkoff non-refundable. ABP refunds about $2.5 million annually but the bid to make it mandatory was narrowly defeated, with only about a quarter of eligible producers casting ballots. (The poor turnout was another driver of the reorganization, which is intended to improve engagement with producers.)
Going forward, candidates running for the board will have to say if they’ve had their checkoff refunded.
“We’ll notify voters if someone has taken their checkoff back. Voters will be aware who has done that,” said Smith-Fraser.
Another legacy of the plebiscite is a sea change in relations with the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association. The provincial government required both organizations to support the vote and that led to a close working relationship between the two. The two groups will now both hold their AGMs at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference (which is held in February or March in Red Deer each year). This will give members of both organizations the opportunity to network. ABP is also eliminating its feed council, as well as its cow-calf council.
Instead of regional meetings, ABP will now host one all-day meeting per zone. The meetings will be like mini-conferences, where delegates will be able to hear what their representatives have been working on, as well as from Canada Beef, the Beef Cattle Research Council and Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
These changes will not only enable producers to learn more about topics (such as winter feeding or calving management) but also foster closer relations between the various players in the beef sector.
“Some producers can’t take a full three days to attend a conference, but if they get a lot out of one day, it gives the benefit back to producers,” said Smith-Fraser.
She said she has noticed changes in the delegate body over the years she’s been involved with Alberta Beef Producers.
“There were a lot of young people and women at the semi-annual,” she said. “We’re seeing the successes of some of the programs like the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program, and we’re getting a lot of people coming in because of that CYL program.
“We’ve got some great young people who want to go to work, and they’ve got some great ideas. We need to balance that with experience as well. I think we’ve got a great mix of both.”
Smith-Fraser, who has a degree in marketing, is passionate about promoting Alberta beef, and communicating with producers.
“My goal by the end of my term is that I don’t want to hear that we’re not communicating enough with producers,” she said. “I want producers to understand what we’re working on, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and how it’s benefiting the industry as a whole.”