ABP Delegates Face Grim Reality

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“I never thought I would be facing legislation making the checkoff refundable.”

The beef industry is facing unprecedented challenges, and so were delegates to the semiannual meeting of Alberta Beef Producers earlier this month.

“We did not expect to celebrate our 40th anniversary in this way,” said ABP general manager Rich Smith.

Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld’s decision to terminate ABP’s mandatory checkoff makes ABP’s future funding uncertain, forcing delegates to consider decisions that would cut back marketing and promotion programs that took 40 years to develop.

“I realized that the cattle industry was facing many challenges like the financial crisis, COOL legislation, and other issues but I never thought I would be facing legislation making the checkoff refundable,” ABP chairman Rick Burton said in his opening address.

That ominous reality set the tone for the rest of the meeting, as Burton reviewed the circumstances and time line that led up to decision and the tabling of the legislation which has now passed into law.

In response to questions from several delegates as to how they might be able to appeal to other influencers to change the legislation, Burton replied that they had exhausted all political avenues

To deal with the new reality, delegates passed resolutions that saw a million dollars removed from the present budget and an additional million dollars moved from the Trade Advocacy Reserve fund to cover expenses in the 2010/11 budget year.

Delegates expressed concern that Alberta will not be able to meet its commitments to the $1 per head national checkoff

Delegate Kelly Olson led a vigourous debate against removing any money from the advocacy fund, noting that a trade challenge could come at any time and the industry had to be prepared financially. The refundable checkoff will be implemented in 2010 and it is expected that there will be 50 per cent reduction in income as a result of checkoff refund requests.

The ABP board is recommending that the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association expense remain the same but that substantial cuts will have to be made to all other ABP expenses in order to meet the anticipated shortfalls in coming years.

Delegates expressed concern that Alberta will not be able to meet its commitments to the $1 per head national checkoff. Those funds are used to support the Beef Information Centre, Canada Beef Export Federation and national cattle and beef research projects. ABP directors said they would try to mitigate the effects of the legislation on national programs.

Reports were also received from national cattle and beef organizations. A Canfax report highlighted the cattle market situation which noted that the significant reduction in the national cattle herd is continuing and may well be further aggravated by further drought conditions in most of Alberta.

Delegates also spent time reviewing and passing motions for changes to the ABP marketing plan. Those changes included amendments to reflect the impact of the refundable legislation known as Bill 43 on the ABP regulations.

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