Increased non-refundable check-off option supported at regional ABP meeting

Two potentially contentious issues proved to have no meat to them for the area’s beef producers.

Two potentially contentious issues proved to have no meat to them for the area’s beef producers.

Being able to maintain their competitiveness and enhance the value of their products through better research were more important to the members of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) who attended a regional meeting at the Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion last Thursday night, Oct. 29 where the majority of the about 50 in attendance voted in favour of raising the national check-off per head as well as for eliminating the refundable portion of the provincial service charge.

The regional meeting, which was one of 23 held over the past few weeks throughout the province, included presentations on the ABP’s 2015 annual report and the funding options for both the National Beef Strategy and the ABP, plus giving producers the opportunity to put forward resolutions that will be voted on at the ABP annual general meeting in Calgary in December.

“It was a good discussion and showed that producers want to be involved in the strategy being put forward by the ABP to help maintain our research to keep the industry competitive,” said ABP chair Greg Bowie following the meeting.

The aim of the five-year National Beef Strategy is to ensure research and promotion of Canadian beef enhances the value of the products in addition to expanding the domestic, but especially the international, market potential for beef products.

Bowie, who is also a producer from the Ponoka area, explained the per head national check-off has been $1 since it was introduced 20 years ago, and that discussions between various stakeholders over the past 18 months has resulted in the recommendation to hike it to $2.50 per head.

“This raise is necessary if we are to reach the aggressive goals and objectives that have been set out in the National Beef Strategy,” he said.

As for the changes the ABP is advocating in order to maintain their own viability, Bowie was as equally straightforward stating the refundable portion of the provincial service charge must go if the ABP hopes to keep their products at the forefront along with generating more value for their members.

Bowie explained to the participants that last year alone $2.1 million was taken out of the system through the refundable option by people who had no intention of ever putting into anything except their own pockets.

“That’s a huge chunk of the money taken in and, I would have no problem with that if it went back into the industry,” he said.

However, that hasn’t been the case with most of the refunds going to the cattle feedlot operators who first convinced the provincial government to provide the refundable option back in 2010, which has amounted to a total of around $13 million since it became available.

“Not having that money available to the ABP, it has forced us to restrict spending on strategic initiatives and research and also has us losing out on government grants, as more often governments now want to see industry putting up cash before they will provide support for programs,” he added.

It is for that reason, and for the fact that all who benefit should pay, that beef producer Assar Grinde, who runs his operation northwest of Ponoka, was one of the majority in favour of both initiatives.

“We need to have the rise and have that money put back into the system,” said Grinde.

“There are always going to be people that are going to take that refund, but still get all of the benefits. They are like the free rider on a bus. He still gets the exact same benefits as everyone else, but gets to keep his money.

“It’s the same thing here, they get all the benefits of the research, marketing and promotion, but the rest of us are the ones paying for it. This is significant and needs to change so we can move forward.”

Bowie added final outcome of the votes on the provincial surcharge from the various regional meetings will help when the ABP approaches the provincial government to lobby for the legislative changes necessary to remove the refund option.