At the recent Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) semi-annual meeting, chairman Doug Sawyer took a bold pre-emptive strike against a topic that has been whispered about in cattle industry circles for years. He bluntly stated that his organization was opposed to the directed or directional checkoff. That took other cattle producer organizations like the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) and the Western Stock Growers Association (WSGA) by surprise. Spokesmen for both groups denied that their organizations were even thinking about such a checkoff — at least that’s their official line.
The last time the directed checkoff concept was mentioned (albeit too late) was during the run-up to the imposition of the refundable checkoff by the provincial government on cattle, sheep, hog and potato producers. It seems the ABP learned from the last checkoff campaign that it needs to lobby the government and the cattle industry early and hard to forestall any further arbitrary decisions by the provincial government on the checkoff issue.
The last time around the ACFA and the WSGA lobby proved to be very successful in getting a refundable checkoff in place. It was a done deal before the ABP even knew what was going on.
The supply management boards, who are masters at political lobbying at every level, also provided a lesson as to the need for ongoing focused lobbying. You may recall that when the cattle, sheep, hog and potato commissions all lost their non-refundable checkoffs, the quota boards all kept their non-refundable checkoffs in place through hardcore lobbying.
It would seem that this time around the ABP intends to take any checkoff challenge, real or imagined, straight to the front line with a bold offence. There is also an underlying concern that with most of the ag-connected constituencies in central and southern Alberta now represented by the Wildrose opposition, that the PC government may be contemplating some surprises for the ag industry. Perhaps nipping this issue in the bud is prudent politics.