“We will soon be the only exporting in the world that does not have a national checkoff in place.”
The semi-annual meeting of Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) here earlier this month was dominated by an undercurrent that affected most of the formal and informal discussions.
The issue was the delay by new Minister of Agriculture Jack Hayden in implementing the nonrefundability of the one-dollar national portion of the $3 cattle checkoff for cattle in Alberta.
Bill 43, introduced by former Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld, allows for producers to request return of the formerly compulsory checkoff for ABP and other provincial agricultural marketing and promotion bodies.
Hayden has indicated that he personally favours keeping the $1 national portion compulsory, but no official decision has been announced.
The $1 national checkoff goes to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and related organizations such as the Beef Information Centre and the Canada Beef Export Federation to promote beef consumption, and to fund other activities such as trade challenges.
The issue was cited in a number of reports by ABP officials and delegates. ABP chairman Chuck Maclean said the national checkoff issue has become critical to the continuation of national and international industry promotion, research and development programs.
“We will soon be the only exporting in the world that does not have a national checkoff in place,” he said. “Many programs are in jeopardy.”
In his report to delegates, Maclean said the ABP over the past year has learned its lesson about maintaining good relationships with other cattle organizations and the government.
“We have met with the Alberta Meat and Livestock Agency (ALMA) to create more harmony between our organizations,” he said. “We have met a number of times with the new minister and senior government officials.”
Maclean thanked the Alberta government for its financial support of the age verification and AgriRecovery programs. He said the ABP cow-calf council worked very hard to get the AgriRecovery program going and had to pressure both levels of government to get some action. “It’s frustrating getting this program to react.”
Maclean said it’s taken more than 14 months to get the Agri-Recovery to react to two years of drought.
ABP has begun a series of town-hall type meetings to improve communication with producers. Two recent meetings were held in Brooks and Westlock. Chairman Maclean said that he was committed to attend any such meetings at the request of producers.
Finance Chairman Dave Solverson said expected revenues had increased due to marketing conditions.
“Because of less exports to the U. S, those cattle were sold in Alberta and we collected checkoff that we would not normally have collected on export cattle,” he said.
Solverson also said the changing operating reality of checkoff income due to Bill 43 has caused the committee and staff to revise budgets significantly. He said that an acceptable refund process has been approved with input from the industry.
The meeting also saw a review of the ABP plan, in particular its long-term plan and strategic goals.