A year after the disappointing defeat of a bid to increase its checkoff, Alberta Beef Producers’ board wants to put the organization on a diet.
The farm group is asking its members to endorse a plan that would cut the board by a quarter, the number of delegates by a third, and the number of zones by nearly half. It also wants to eliminate its semi-annual meeting and reduce the number of regional meetings.
The streamlining is partly an effort to reduce costs but is also a response to the failed checkoff plebiscite, in which barely a quarter of eligible producers voted.
“In my opinion, it would be reckless for the organization to keep the status quo,” said chair Charlie Christie. “I think producers, for the most part, want to see change and want to see that we’re trying to make darn sure we’re worthy of whatever checkoff dollars we’re getting.”
The impetus came from young producers, who are “eager for change” and said the plebiscite on the checkoff showed a need for one.
“We represent about half the number of producers we used to,” added Christie, who runs a feedlot, cow-calf operation and grain farm near Trochu.
The proposed changes would still leave the board with 12 directors and 35 delegates from five zones (the five southern zones would be amalgamated into two zones, and the other four become three). The recent fall elections saw delegates acclaimed in all but one zone with four zones unable to fill all its delegate spots.
Eliminating the semi-annual meeting would save $70,000 yearly and having one yearly meeting per zone (instead of two or three) would not only produce further savings but pave the way for improvements, said Christie. The organization not only wants to livestream the meetings and have electronic voting (for those who can’t attend or don’t want to make a longer drive), but expand them to full-day events, with half the time devoted to presentations from groups such as the Beef Cattle Research Council and Canada Beef.
This change was also something that younger producers advocated, said Christie.
“This would open it up so you could have that educational component and make it worthwhile for people.”
The package of changes generated lots of discussion when presented to producers both during the recent slate of fall meetings and afterwards, he said.
“I’ve had more calls on this than I did on the plebiscite,” he said. “The vast majority have been very supportive.”
The changes were crafted by a working group of seven people and their recommendations won’t be acted on unless backed at the group’s AGM (Dec. 2-4).
“Nothing will happen until the delegate body makes a decision,” said Christie.
Other changes would see the cow-calf council and the cattle feeder council disbanded.
“The work we’re doing with the Alberta Cattle Feeders takes the place of the cow-calf council,” said Christie.
Working groups would be comprised of the best people for the job, selected from the delegate or the producer body, and would be task oriented and disbanded once the task was completed.
“There would always be members of the board on it, but then you could draw from the delegate body to populate those committees or working groups, as well as draw from general producers,” said Christie.
In lieu of a semi-annual meeting, ABP would have one meeting at the beginning of December (the normal time of the AGM), and then a second during the Alberta Beef Industry Conference (held in February or March). The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association and the Western Stock Growers’ Association already hold their business meetings during the Alberta Beef Industry Conference.
“We can have that in one afternoon there, and hopefully there would be more producers who could attend the actual business meeting if they were interested,” said Christie. “We’re really striving to bring this (cattle) industry together — perhaps in our own groups — but together.”
A further proposal would see directors elected from the floor during that meeting. They also would not be required to represent a zone directly.
“There’s been some push-back to that because of regional representation and we’re open to ideas,” said Christie, noting the board has had trouble finding reps from some regions.
“I don’t think there will be a regional issue. I think there will be enough coming from each region. There will be good people coming to the election process province-wide. If we need to put in some safeguards so we don’t have a concentration coming from any one zone, that is pretty doable.”
The proposed changes were also designed to improve producer engagement, and so far, it’s working.
“We’ll try to find a model that will perk people’s ears up,” said Christie. “Whenever you talk about changing something, that gets people awake.”
If backed at the AGM, the changes (some of which would need approval from the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council) would be implemented by June.
Alberta Beef Producers’ 45 delegates
There was one election (in Zone 5) during Alberta Beef Producers’ fall meetings, with delegates in the eight other zones selected by acclamation. Here are the delegates for the coming year with an asterisk denoting those elected or acclaimed this fall (Zones 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 have vacant positions):
Zone 1: Brad Osadczuk (Jenner)*, Kevin Stopanski (Jenner)*, Kody Traxel (Cypress Hills)*, Craig Lehr (Medicine Hat)* and Brodie Haugan (Orion).
Zone 2: Darren Bevans (Raymond)*, Sheila Hillmer (Del Bonita)*, Trish Vachon (Nanton)*, Shane Hansen (Cardston), Fred Lozeman (Claresholm) and Jimmy Nelson (Stirling).
Zone 3: Jim Bowhay (Sundre)*, Graeme Finn (Crossfield)*, Chris Israelson (Didsbury)*, Keith Chitwood (Rocky View County) and Morrie Goetjen (Cochrane).
Zone 4: Regan Curry (Finnegan)*, James Madge (Hanna)*, Tim Smith (Coronation)*, Shawn Freimark (Castor), Garth Johnson (Killam) and Walter Suntjens (Hanna).
Zone 5: Kent Holowath (Rumsey)*, Cathy Sharp (Lacombe)*, Stuart Somerville (Endiang)*, Katlyn Benedict (Wimborne) and Kelly Smith-Fraser (Pine Lake).
Zone 6: Kolton Kasu (Bashaw)*, Jill Burkhardt (Gwynne), Assar Grinde (Bluffton) and Cecil Andersen (Drayton Valley).
Zone 7: Colin Campbell (Bon Accord)*, Martin Clausen (Westlock)*, Glen Kummer (Barrhead)*, Rod Carlyon (Dapp) and Lorrie Jespersen (Barrhead).
Zone 8: Shane Franklin (Bonnyville)*, Josie Pashulka (Derwent)*, Melanie Wowk (Beauvallon)*, Emil Dmytriw (Innisfree), Jodi Flaig (Two Hills) and George L’Heureux (Lac La Biche).
Zone 9: Mike Nadeau (Beaverlodge)*, John MacArthur (Fairview)*, Gary These (Peace River) and Ron Wieler (Fort Vermilion). — ABP