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Although the announcement by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development George Groeneveld, suggested that the proposed legislation will provide more choice to producers, ABP thinks that this action actually reduces choice for producers.

ABP had requested that before the government took any legislative action to make the service charge refundable, the government exercise its authority under the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act to have Marketing Council conduct a plebiscite to allow producers to make that choice.

“We are extremely disappointed that the government would choose to overrule the democratic process and the producers of Alberta by intervening in the operations of ABP and the three other commissions through the imposition of a refundable check-off,” says the release. “This action will aggravate the divisions that already exist within the cattle industry and will compromise the positive intent of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Strategy and the efforts of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.”

A refundable check-off has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of industry funding that is available for marketing, research and promotion activities. ABP does not think that this action makes sense at a time when governments are facing severe budgetary constraints and are looking to industry to provide more funding for these activities.

“There is a bitter irony in having democratically elected MLAs arbitrarily change the manner in which the marketing commissions are funded without first consulting the delegates and directors elected by the producers to be their representatives

ith the Alberta Government’s action to replace Alberta Beef Producers’ (ABP) non-refundable service charge (check-off), the expressed wishes of this province’s cattle producers have fallen on deaf ears, says a release from ABP.

or using the mechanisms available in the Act to consult with the producers directly,” says the release. “The imposition of a refundable check-off shifts control of the commissions from a democratic system where each producer has an equal vote to a system where very large producers will have more influence as a result of controlling a greater amount of check-off dollars.

The nearly 28,000 beef producers in this province have an organization which represents their collective interests — the Alberta Beef Producers. Run by producers for producers, ABP is dedicated to supporting a truly sustainable, competitive and profitable cattle and beef industry for the benefit of all Albertans.”

FROM THE MAIL BAG

ON REFUNDABLE CHECK OFF

Dear Editor

The Alberta Governments tabling of Bill 43 which proposes to convert the current mandatory beef check-off levy to a refundable one has caused some controversy.

When you read the proposed legislation however there seems little to justify the outcry. It is a simple change that will allow producers the choice on whether their levy deductions continue to fund the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) as their lobbying organization. Producers now have the option to support alternate farm organizations whose policies are more closely aligned with their own views or indeed withdraw the funds and put them to a different use altogether. What could be more democratic than letting producers decide who should represent them?

Since the Agriculture Minister announced this Bill on April 28th there has been a vociferous campaign by ABP to defeat the bill with claims that it is a totally undemocratic move and that producers now have no voice.

I would suggest the truth is rather the opposite. In recent years there have been calls from beef producers in every corner of the province to axe the automatic levy funding of ABP because that organization does not adequately represent their interests. ABP as an organization is viewed by many producers as being un-democratic and run from the top down in an almost dictatorial fashion.

Examples of this are attempts in recent years by producers to persuade ABP through the democratic process to lobby on important issues like allowing BSE testing and restricting packer ownership of cattle which have been rejected time and again by the leadership of the organization. ABP clearly does not represent the views of all the beef producers in this province although that is not what their current advertising campaign claims.

In a strange twist of logic the organization is claiming that they represent all producers and are making an excellent job of doing so yet in the next breath they claim their organization will be left financially destitute by producers directing their levy monies elsewhere. If ABP represents producer interests adequately their continued funding will not be an issue — as such Bill 43 introduces an element of accountability to ABP and this is seemingly what they don’t like. As a point of interest refundable levies have applied in Manitoba and British Columbia’s cattle industry for several years and the number of producers requesting refunds is only around seven to 10 per cent per year.

As a producer who has long called for a change to the levy structure of ABP, I am appalled by the antics of the organization in recent days. The advertising campaign launched to oppose this bill has likely cost several hundred thousand dollars already — money contributed by all levy paying producers whether they support or oppose the ABP

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