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Beef producers vote to keep refundable check-off

Alberta’s beef producers have voted by a narrow margin to keep the mandatory beef check-off refundable.

A plebiscite on the issue was held between Oct. 19 and Nov. 27. Preliminary results showed that 51.3 per cent of producers voted to keep the refundable check-off. Final results will be shared on Dec. 11, after a two-week period during which members can contest the results.

The check-off is a levy paid to the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), which is used to fund industry research and marketing. The levy is mandatory, but producers may apply for a full reimbursement.

The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA), and ABP were recommending a return to a non-refundable check-off to fund the New Era Beef Industry. Revenues from the non-refundable check-off would have been shared between ABP, ACFA and a new Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF), providing project funding for market development, research, education, consumer advocacy and industry collaboration.

Moving forward

Even though the plebiscite didn’t deliver the hoped-for result, it highlights the value of member-driven organizations that do not stand still. The organizations will now focus on moving forward with securing funding for industry research and marketing projects. ACFA will continue with its efforts in lobbying, advocacy, policy development, industry development, and other activites. As individual organizations and as an industry, the goal is to persist in the pursuit of continuous improvement.

“I want to thank everyone who took the time to engage in the discussion and to vote in the plebiscite,” said Ryan Kasko, ACFA chair. “ACFA will continue to work in a collaborative fashion with ABP, drive operational efficiencies, and work diligently with partners to ensure the health of the industry.” 

Alberta’s beef industry faces remarkable potential and ACFA will continue to take the lead and leverage opportunities for the benefit of its members, the cattle feeding sector, and the industry as a whole.

You can read more about how funds from a non-refundable check-off would have been used in ‘How funding for the new era beef industry will benefit all beef producers’.

How funding for the New Era Beef Industry will benefit all beef producers

This fall, Alberta’s beef producers will vote in a province-wide plebiscite on the industry’s checkoff program. The issue at hand is whether the refundable payment should become non-refundable.

Why the checkoff is currently refundable

The beef industry checkoff has been around since 1969 as a levy paid to the Alberta Cattle Commission (later to become Alberta Beef Producers, ABP). Funds from the levy were used for industry research and marketing, but it was somewhat contentious from the start. In 2009, the Alberta government passed a bill making the checkoff payment refundable – meaning that producers were able to apply for full reimbursement.  

Why a change to the non-refundable checkoff makes sense

Despite these early challenges, ACFA believes the associations and organizations representing different sectors of the beef industry production chain must join together and work for the benefit of the entire industry.

In 2017, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association and ABP reached an agreement founded on their shared belief in collaboration and mutual support between different beef production sectors. The New Era Beef Industry (NEBI) is the result of that agreement, and it heralds a return to a mandatory beef cattle checkoff, with revenues to be shared by ABP, ACFA and a new Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF).

The ABIDF will provide project funding for market development, research, education, consumer advocacy and industry collaboration, for a stronger, more profitable beef industry. The fund will be governed by a council comprised of three representatives selected by ABP and three selected by ACFA. The six council members will select a chair who is not a member of the board or of either organization.

ABIDF will help compensate for the loss of the Alberta Meat and Livestock Agency, which provided funds for industry development until it was shut down by the government in 2016.

Under the New Era Beef Industry, the total checkoff payment will be $2 per head of cattle. It will be distributed like this:

  • 5 cents to the remitters of the checkoff 
  • $1.30 to ABP 
  • 25 cents to ACFA 
  • 40 cents to the Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF)

If the plebiscite in the fall results in a vote for the refundable checkoff, ABP will continue to collect the mandatory checkoff, and producers can still request a full refund if they wish. If the plebiscite results in a vote for NEBI, it will provide a unique opportunity for crucial industry research and development.

The checkoff was just one of the issues that new ACFA board chair, Ryan Kasko flagged as important to cattle feeders this year. You can read about the other issues in ‘Finances are among cattle feeders’ top issues’. 

Finances are among Cattle Feeders’ top issues

Ryan Kasko, ACFA’s new board chair, talks in this blog about priority issues for the upcoming year.

Non-refundable checkoff

ACFA is working on a plan to collaborate with Alberta Beef Producers to build a new path forward that would include an Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund, Ryan said.

“We will be asking producers to vote in a plebiscite this fall to return to a non-refundable checkoff,” he said. “The money generated will be used to finance marketing activities, research and other projects that will benefit the Alberta beef industry.”

Ryan said the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) used to provide $20 million for industry research and marketing initiatives. The funding has been eliminated, so it is hoped the checkoff proceeds will at least partly offset the lost funds. “We’re hoping to work with the government to show the value this investment is providing, and to hopefully get more government funding,” he said.

Farm safety

The association is also heavily invested in making sure its members understand recent changes to the Alberta Labour Code. “We’re offering a feedlot safety program to ACFA voting members so that feedlots can get up to speed on farm safety, specifically in reference to those changes,” Ryan said.

Trade

NAFTA is at the top of cattle feeders’ minds. “Although we’re not directly involved in negotiations, we work alongside the National Cattle Feeders’ Association and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to support them in their efforts to make sure the beef industry remains part of NAFTA.”

Looking for a new CEO

Bryan Walton, ACFA’s president and CEO, will retire this fall, and a search for a replacement has started.

“We will be sad to see Bryan go,” said Ryan. “He’ll be a hard person to replace. But at the same time, any change provides an opportunity for new ideas, and we’re looking forward to that process.”

You can learn more about Ryan and his work as a cattle feeder in an earlier Meet the team post.