National sheep tag fee set to start for Alberta in September

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Sheep producers could be paying a reduced provincial checkoff in September. Alberta Lamb Producers (ALP) members are in the process of voting for a resolution that would lower their refundable checkoff to $1.35 from $1.50. The change is because a $0.25 national Canadian Sheep Identification Program (CSIP) tag fee is being implemented that will fund the Canadian Sheep Federation (CSF) in lieu of dues from the provincial sheep organizations.

“We are hoping to have the whole procedure in place by Sept. 1; that’s our goal,” said ALP chair Ronald den Broeder. If the majority of eligible voting producers approves change to the checkoff, the $0.15 price drop will need to be passed by the Agricultural Products Marketing Council and the provincial government, den Broeder said.

Three zones have already voted to approve the change. Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 still need to vote. If Alberta producers were against the switch they’d fight it, he said, adding however the consensus is a national organization is needed to tackle country-wide issues. “If we don’t have a national organization there’s nobody talking to the government,” den Broeder said.

Separate process

Though the plan is to reduce the checkoff, the tag fee to fund CSF is a separate issue and the provincial body won’t be responsible for any shortfall from tag fee refunds. “Alberta Lamb Producers is not financially responsible for the CSF,” den Broeder said. The voluntary $0.25 CSIP fee will be applied to tags sold through the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers, said Jennifer MacTavish, executive director of the CSF. However, MacTavish said the national organization is working with provinces individually over how the fee is implemented. “We’re just really in the preliminary phases, it will require national consultation. Every province is handling this process on their own,” she said. “As a result we’ve ended up with a bit of a smorgasbord approach.”

Some provinces, like B.C. and Nova Scotia, have already launched the tag fee program, while others, like Alberta, are intending to start in the fall, MacTavish said. Some are even saying they’d rather keep paying member dues. The reason the fee is being put in is so imported goods can be levied as well, hopefully providing a stable source of funding for the national group. “In order for us to be able to do that, we need to show that every producer is paying the same levy to the national organization, because if we don’t do that with every producer in Canada there’s no way that we can impose it on imported product,” she said. The CSF is hoping to raise at least $155,000, which is the organization’s current approximate operating budget. “A lot of this is going to change as we listen to what the producers have to say, or may change, but so far we’ve had a lot of really great producer support,” she said. Consultation will take place in partnership with the provincial associations, she said.

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