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Alta. cattle groups line up behind ALMS

Four cattle producers’ organizations with Alberta membership are collectively putting their weight behind the provincial government’s planned Livestock and Meat Strategy (ALMS).

The groups announced Thursday they have formed a new coalition, the Beef Industry Alliance (BIA), supported by the Western Stock Growers Association, Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA), Beef Initiative Group (BIG) and Feeder Associations of Alberta (FAA).

“The BIA was created to provide a forum for like-minded organizations
that support a new approach to advancing the beef industry in Alberta,”
BIA chairman Russ Pickett, representing the Western Stock Growers, said in a release.

“The BIA is
about a broad-based approach to advancing the beef industry and other supply
chain partners will be invited to be part of the BIA as we build momentum
around ALMS,” said vice-chairman Jack de Boer of ACFA.

ALMS is to be operated by the newly-formed Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), modeled after like organizations in other countries. The intent of ALMA is to redirect government funds, resources and programs to help revitalize the livestock sector, enhance the value chain and achieve the necessary changes to build a competitive livestock industry, the province said previously.

Joe Makowecki was recently appointed as the first chair of ALMA and Ted Bilyea, Charlie Gracey and Kee Jim are its first board members.

Conspicuously absent from the roster of BIA member groups is Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), which admits to “fundamental concerns” about ALMS and the ALMA model of operation.

In a letter to producers on July 30, ABP chair Erik Butters warned that ALMS, as a strategy, is “not market driven,” nor is it directed by democratically chosen producers. As well, he wrote, it includes “significant additions to regulatory costs” and leads to duplication of jurisdiction between federal, provincial and industry initiatives.

But the BIA’s member groups said they will devote their efforts to supporting the merits of ALMS, such as age verification and traceability. Offering confidence to buyers of Alberta beef, Pickett said, starts with “a modest effort on verifying the age of
our cattle and building on the current traceability system to provide our
customers with the information they need.”

BIA members, he said, are “pleased to have had input into the ALMS and are intent on continuing collaboration with (provincial Agriculture Minister George) Groeneveld and the ALMA. This is a
watershed moment in the history of the beef industry in this province and we
intend to be an active participant in shaping its future.”

Groeneveld in June told the province’s livestock producers they could expect $150 million in immediate aid payments, with another $150 million where that came from if they will help create a provincial brand for their meat by setting up age verification and premises ID systems through ALMS.

Groeneveld in June also allocated $56 million to set up ALMA to oversee ALMS.

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