Supply management in jeopardy | An Alberta Chicken Producers poll showed 75 percent favoured fighting for more quota
RED DEER — Alberta Chicken Producers has given notice it will withdraw from the federal-provincial supply management agreement Dec. 31.
The organization has spent seven years trying to get a larger quota so that it can supply more chicken for the province’s growing population.
It sent a letter of notification Nov. 22 that it would withdraw and had until Feb. 22 to rescind it.
However, seven meetings since October couldn’t find a final solution to the complicated national quota allocation issue.
All 10 provinces needed to agree, but Quebec and Nova Scotia did not, said David Hyink, Alberta’s representative to the national system.
Chicken Farmers of Canada tabled two proposals in the last 14 months to resolve the allocation dispute, and Ontario, Quebec and a group of smaller provinces had also made new proposals by last September.
The provincial organization still has authority to set allocations and enforce programs such as animal care and food safety because they are provincially regulated.
“It is not going to be a free for all and there will still be controls in the system,” Hyink said during the organization’s annual meeting in Red Deer Feb. 26.
Provincial chair Erna Ference said the organization will take a responsible approach to the new environment.
“Alberta can set its own quota, but we have always said we would maintain a responsible predictable allocation setting process,” she said.
“We would still set it according to what our processors would ask for.”
National chair Dave Janzen asked for all involved to take a break from negotiations, which may require government intervention to resolve.
“Without a doubt, there are fundamental differences between provincial boards on how growth in the industry should be handled and allocated,” he said.
“This is not simply an Alberta issue. While Alberta has been forceful, this is about 10 provinces agreeing, not about certain provinces solving the demands of other provinces.”
The Farm Products Council of Canada and provincial supervisory boards may step in to resolve the dispute or face the possibility of losing the stability of supply management.
Janzen said the Canadian chicken business has been a success story, but internal bickering distracts the industry from other critical issues and weakens its ability to defend itself against external attacks on supply management.
“If farmers aren’t getting what was intended when supply management came into being 40 years ago, then the system needs to change,” he said.
“But on the other hand, if farmers want more than the system can deliver, then it’s the farmers who need to change.”
Alberta supplies 83 percent of its chicken needs and the remainder comes from other provinces, said Karen Kirkwood, executive director of the provincial association.
It produces 121 million kilograms of live chicken per year and imports 10 pounds per person of additional poultry.
The Alberta organization polled its producers in June, and 75 percent favoured continuing the fight to get more quota.