Alberta is back in the federal-provincial agreement for allocating broiler chicken quota after exiting it in 2013.
“I’m thinking they should hire us for NAFTA now,” Alberta Chicken Producers’ chair Erna Ference said with a laugh.
“This was a huge effort. We started back in 2008 with this, and it took a lot of producers and the processing industry in Alberta to accomplish this new agreement.
“Obviously, it was a give and take — and all of the provinces worked really, really hard. It shows that we can work together and accomplish something. It’s a success story.
The new deal concluded Nov. 2 when the Farm Products Council of Canada ruled that the new agreement could proceed without first getting Governor-in-Council approval — that is, approval from the federal cabinet through the Governor General.
“We’re excited to have all our provinces back on board,” Benoit Fontaine, chair of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, said in a release.
Alberta Chicken Producers left the federal-provincial agreement in 2013 due to the unfair allocation of quota, said Ference, who raises chickens west of Okotoks. At the time, her organization estimated it was getting only 80 per cent of what would be a fair share of quota allocation.
“Our population had been increasing exponentially compared to other provinces, and we were getting a smaller and smaller percentage share of that growth based on population,” said Ference. “We felt that needed to be addressed.”
The organization didn’t exit the stage entirely. It continued to be involved with the national producer body, but wasn’t allowed a vote at the table.
“Now we’re back in the family fold. I think it’s a good place to be,” said Ference. “We have more of a say, and that’s a good thing.”
The new arrangement means provinces will still have a base amount of quota, but a percentage of new growth will be allocated based on ‘comparative advantage,’ including population.
“Out of the new growth in the country, we’ll get a percentage of that new growth until we’re able to supply 90 per cent of our population, and once that’s done, the factor will drop off,” said Ference.
“Going back in, I have the confidence that what we fought for and what we wanted is going to be respected. Those are all really good things from a producer’s point of view.”
From 2014 to 2017, Alberta’s share edged up slightly, from producing enough chicken to supply grew 80.4 per cent of the province’s needs to 81.5 per cent. That growth will only continue under the new agreement, said Ference.
“That’s significant, but you can imagine how great it’s going to be moving forward, as long as there’s growth in the industry,” she said. “Chicken is the No. 1 meat in Canada, and there seems to be an increasing appetite for that. Our general expectation is that we’re going to see increased growth.”
Chicken producers in the province are already getting ready and there’s been a “huge increase” in building activity, she added.
“There’s been a lot of new barns built in the province, not just in broiler chicken production but also in hatching egg production,” said Ference, pointing to new and upgraded facilities in Calgary and Lethbridge.
“There’s a lot of investment along the value chain, and all of that is benefiting Alberta chicken producers.”