The refundable beef checkoff in Alberta is still a hot topic. It does not focus on the province, but rather on the impact of refunding the checkoff to the nation.
The checkoff has several layers. The first is Alberta’s contribution to the work of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). As Alberta represents 65 per cent of the beef production in Canada, a refundable checkoff may have a huge impact on the availability of funds submitted from Alberta to the CCA. One can only speculate on how many producers will ask for their refund, affecting both the work of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and the CCA.
The other layer is the national checkoff. The national checkoff is mandatory in all provinces and pending in Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In an unprecedented move, the refundable portion of the checkoff in Alberta includes the national portion, making the total refund $3. This national checkoff of $1 has always gone toward supporting the work of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), the Beef Information Centre (BIC), and the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF).
The role of each group is clearly defined. The BCRC funnels money into applied research which focuses on production efficiencies and technology transfer. The current research focus of the BCRC is in forage and feed production, increased feed efficiency, animal health and welfare, food safety, prion research, improved carcass quality and nutritional value. For every dollar of BIC money the government then matches that dollar with six research dollars.
BIC and CBEF will soon become a blended family. Their roles will be the same and that is for BIC to promote beef within the domestic and U. S. market and for CBEF to facilitate the expansion of strategic global markets for our Canadian beef products. They are the people “in the face” of potential export and domestic buyers of Canadian beef. They also take their portion of that $1 and leverage it for other funds. Indeed, the three groups collectively do that so well that in the years from 2005 – 2008 the average net benefit from the national contribution was $9 for every $1. This 9:1 return on investment is better than that of Australia (5:1) and the United States (5.5:1). All three groups have a proven track record.
Import levy dead
The Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency was formed under federal legislation in 2002. The agreement was that once all the provinces were signed on to the national checkoff, the beef industry would be able to access a $1 national levy on all imports of beef and beef cattle. This would create a decent revenue stream on all imports of beef and beef cattle for our industry in Canada. With the national portion of the checkoff now refundable in Alberta, that basically kills the deal and the beef industry will not be allowed to collect a levy on imported beef and beef cattle.
The Order in Council was overzealous because it included the national checkoff and clearly jeopardizes the face of the Canadian beef industry to the rest of the world. The federal government does not have the means at this moment to pick up the slack and there is not a group or organization with the expertise, manpower the profile to pull off domestic and international beef research, facilitation and promotion. In addition, our national hopes for collecting a levy on imported product is gone. Alberta has effectively disadvantaged the Canadian beef industry.
There is the potential to correct the situation and reinstate the national portion of the Alberta checkoff. All we are missing is the political will. If you agree, write or call Agriculture Minster Hayden or send a copy of this article with your comments.
Jack Hayden, Minister of Agriculture, 423 Legislature Building, 10800 -97 Ave. Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6 (780) 427-2137 Fax: (780) 422-6035
Brenda Schoepp is a market analyst and the owner and author of Beeflink, a national beef-cattle market newsletter. A professional speaker and industry market and research consultant, she ranches near Rimbey, Alberta. [email protected]