president, western stock growers association
The Western Stock Growers’ Association (WSGA) wishes to inform Alberta cattle producers that our organization is not in favour of the proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) forcing a mandatory levy of one dollar per head marketed on Alberta producers to fund the national checkoff organization. While the refundable checkoff has only been in effect for less than six months, the WSGA believes this fundamental change needs time to prove it can be successful. If the refundable checkoff option is removed, grassroots producers will lose the leverage necessary to help direct changes at the national level.
Programs like the refundable checkoff have the potential to help reform and build a stronger national organization for our producers over the next three years. We cannot make a reversal to part of a program that has been given no opportunity to work. We want to encourage producers and business people to make their own decisions, get the facts and keep the fully refundable checkoff just that – refundable!
The WSGA, along with other beef producer groups, were specifically and intentionally excluded from consultation on the matter, leaving the funding decision on national checkoff to a select group of producers who do not represent the entire industry. The WSGA members look upon this potential change in policy, which has happened within a six-month period, to be extremely detrimental to the positive, evolving governance solutions taking place on issues that have plagued our industry for the past 10 years.
This MOA is the product of meetings between Alberta Beef Producers and the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association only, instituted by Agriculture Minister Hayden. Those parties met as a result of a personal request by the minister to the ACFA executive. At that time the ACFA recommended including other cattle industry representatives in the meetings. WSGA, along with ACFA, is a founding member of the Beef Industry Alliance (BIA), an informal organization of beef associations dedicated to solving common industry problems. Although the minister could have involved the BIA, his response instead was to the effect of, “No – we don’t want any little guys there.”
Instead of a product ive consultation with the industry, Minister Hayden chose to strong-arm the feeding industry into entering an agreement with ABP leaving many cattle producers and experienced MLAs wondering what the fallout will be in the future.
The WSGA recognizes that our industry backbone is made up of many “little guys,” those being cow-calf producers. Important industry decisions cannot be left to a few organizations that “know what is best” for the industry, and must be made with all industry players. Minister Hayden has now driven a political wedge into the cattle industry, causing further discontent at a time when industry was starting to regain producer support.