There are some big issues ahead for beef producers in the province and those will be among the items slated for discussion at the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) annual fall regional meetings.
Area producers will have their say when Ponoka hosts one tomorrow night (Thursday, Oct. 29) at the Royal Canadian Legion. Everyone is invited to attend with a free supper set for 6 p.m. and the meeting beginning at 7 p.m.
The Ponoka meeting will mark about the halfway point of the ABP’s producer consultations, with about 11 of the 23 planned meetings already held.
“The idea behind it is to get a sense from from producers, the grassroots, on what direction they would like to move on issues that are of concern to them and the industry,” said Greg Bowie, the chair of the ABP and a Ponoka area producer.
There are two big – and very contentious – issues that producers will be looking at and both of them involve how much money producers contribute to support the research and promotion of the industry, both in Canada and around the world.
Bowie explained that the top national issue is the suggested increase to the national beef strategy check-off to $2.50 per head marketed.
“Within the national beef strategy, the national check-off hasn’t changed from the $1 per head since it was implemented and with the changes coming to the legacy fund as well as the lessening of the Grow Forward 2 and 3 programs, it’s going to become more and more difficult to continue funding all the things we are doing now,” Bowie explained.
“We need to do some pre-planning now, especially in the research area, as we are currently at risk of losing some key positions due to the fact we are unable to attract the young researchers without some long-term secure funding in place. So, we are making a strong attempt to do that. We need to boost that funding and, with the changes in both the federal and provincial governments, it makes for even more uncertainty about what they will provide.”
Having said that, Bowie and the rest of the industry know they are expected to be providing more of that funding as grants and other avenues of cash continue to dwindle.
“That’s why the discussion began back in 2014 about raising the national check-off,” he added.
“With the research and number crunching coming to a conclusion this past summer – the number that would provide the necessary and adequate future funding would be $2.50 per head marketed.”
Bowie stated that producers that attend the meetings will be shown three different options on how reach that $2.50 target and these meetings – which typically attract 1,000 of the 20,000 ABP members – will allow for plenty of discussion and questions.
The other big funding topic facing the ABP is how best to continue moving forward, especially given the tougher economy lately and maintaining the success of their most recent marketing campaign.
“It’s very evident that our current funding model, both nationally and provincially, is not sustainable. I already talked about the national issue, but provincially we are having great success through the Famous Taste campaign, which began three years ago,” said Bowie.
“Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Alberta Beef campaigns were really well known and were a huge success in promoting our products. But funding restrictions, among other things, forced us to push back those efforts until we revived things in this latest campaign.”
He feels this recent success is due to the cooperation with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Association as well as the population jump of not only new Canadians, but new Albertans, most whom likely wouldn’t know or remember any of the previous beef marketing campaigns.
“The Famous Taste marketing campaign has been a great success, but it is also very expensive. To move forward and continue this success, we began talking about some changes that need to be made to the provincial service charge,” stated Bowie, who added a nine-month consultation process came up with what looks like a simple solution.
“While we are still looking at these meetings for more defined opinion on this from producers, it is felt that removing the refund option on the provincial services charge would be the best.”
According to Bowie, the refund option that was introduced in 2010, has seen more than $13 million taken out of the system.
“My belief and that of ABP executive is that marketing and research benefits every producer, so if everyone benefits, then everyone should contribute,” he said.