Checkoff Agreement Was Done For The Benefit Of The Cattle Industry – for Oct. 11, 2010

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ceo, alberta cattle feeders association

Re: Will Verboven’s editorial September 16. Verboven is stuck in the past and continues to foster the idea that a carte blanche return to a mandatory checkoff will cure all the problems in the industry. This back-to-the-future mentality would not bring any fresh thinking or alternative approaches to how we govern and manage our industry.

The Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) came to the table at the invitation of Agriculture Minister Hayden to negotiate in good faith, an arrangement on the national checkoff. This was not “arm twisting” – it was about engaging in a discussion on how to move the industry forward. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA ) that emerged from these discussions, signed by both ACFA and the Alberta Beef Producers, expires on March 31, 2013. During the term of the MOA the $1 levy for the national checkoff will be mandatory and devoted to promotion and research. This agreement is focused on accountability and results to ensure that the levy is benefiting producers. Details of the agreement were sent to all ACFA members on Sept. 10, 2010. The agreement does not touch the remaining $2 that will continue to be mandatory/refundable. The next opportunity to seek a refund on the $2 checkoff will be in January 2011.

The aforementioned MOA clearly demonstrates that the difficult decisions made by the government have sparked more co-operation that will better the industry. The goodwill on both sides of the table during the negotiations is a positive first step in bringing some unity to the industry. Cattle feeders are collaborating with other organizations on a Working Group that is exploring a different model for promoting beef in domestic and foreign markets. Both the ACFA and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA ) will continue to make a meaningful contribution to the new entity that is being discussed by the Working Group. This is sensible considering that cattle feeders, as a group, make a significant financial contribution to the research and promotion pie.

Verboven’s take on the so called “secret negotiations” is wild speculation. The negotiations were difficult but conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and, as noted above, both parties entered into the negotiations in good faith. The ACFA negotiating team kept the board full apprized on progress and the board also sought outside input from the Western Stock Growers’ Association (WSGA). While ACFA and WSGA may agree to disagree on elements of the MOA and how it evolved, both groups will continue to work together on the Beef Industry Alliance, a jointly planned bus tour of feedlots in late October, the Alberta Beef Industry Conference, the Bovine Industry Technical Team and the Young Producer Day in February.

So despite Verboven’s attempt to seed discord amongst industry organizations, the ACFA by its actions is demonstrating a sincere attempt to work with other groups to advance our industry.

Verboven argues that we should return to a mandatory checkoff like other provinces and our international competitors. Alberta needs to set its own course but should examine other jurisdictions to compare against our model. In the U. S., for instance, the checkoff is mandatory for research and promotion but membership in policy organizations is voluntary just as it has been for the ACFA since its inception in 1973.

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WhileACFAandWSGA mayagreetodisagree onelementsoftheMOA andhowitevolved,both groupswillcontinueto worktogetherontheBeef IndustryAlliance,

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