Non-profit agency lowers costs of checkoff collection

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The Alberta Barley Commission has become the latest producer organization to entrust its checkoff collection to Saskatchewan-based Levy Central.

“The Levy Central service will help us build efficiencies and simplify our existing system,” said Lisa Skierka, the commission’s general manager. “This is a responsible use of producer dollars and, ideally, it will help us increase investment in research and market development, which will help barley producers in the future.”

Levy Central is a non-profit enterprise run by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan, which now collects checkoff and manages producer information for 10 Prairie grain commodity organizations.

“It just makes sense to collect this kind of work in a central organization,” said Christine Colborne, the council’s levy manager. “It’s very administration heavy work, so if you can have someone do that it frees up commodity organizations’ internal staff.”

Levy Central is not only more cost effective for organizations, but also for those collecting checkoffs, said Rick Istead, executive director of the Alberta Winter Wheat Commission, which made the switch a year ago.

“From what I hear, our dealers like it,” said Istead. “They like that it’s one voice. If they’re submitting for numerous commodities, say a producer brings in both barley and winter wheat, that dealer only has to work with one touch point.”

As well, “Levy Central has established relationships with grain buyers, which simplifies remittance on their end,” he said.

Both Skierka and Istead said they hope Levy Central will help their organizations reduce the number of dealers who skip making checkoff payments. This is a major problem, with some organizations facing losses in excess of 50 per cent.

“Levy Central’s database system will help us identify slippage,” said Skierka. “Knowing where remittances aren’t being submitted will help us track where our staff need to reach out and build relationships with dealers. Ensuring correct payments are made would make it more fair to everyone who does submit.”

Levy Central was established in 1995 by the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission.

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