Alta. pork producers vote against mandatory checkoff

Alberta pork producers don’t favour the return of a non-refundable checkoff, even if it could allow Canada to charge a levy on pork imports.

Commodity checkoffs in Alberta have been refundable since 2010, though the legislation isn’t universally popular because it limits groups’ ability to predict income and budget accordingly.

However, hog producers at a May 27 Alberta Pork meeting in Lethbridge voted for the status quo.

The discussion arose from a national pork organization proposal for a national import levy on pork entering Canada, said Alberta Pork chair Frank Novak.

The United States charges a levy on Canadian hogs or pork equivalent, so a national levy charged by Canada would be a reciprocal arrangement.

It would require federal regulations to allow a levy on imported hogs, pork and pork products, similar to those implemented for the beef industry in July 2013.

The money could then be used for research, market development or promotion.

However, trade rules dictate that the amount of the import levy is based on the smallest mandatory levy or checkoff paid in the initiating country.

Some Alberta pork producers don’t pay a checkoff because they’ve requested a refund, which negates the industry’s ability to charge on imports.

Novak said the Alberta Pork executive considered a proposal that would implement a mandatory 75 cent per hog levy and a refundable 25 cent levy, which would enable Canada to charge 75 cents per hog on imports.

Based on current import levels of pork and pork products, Novak said they estimated about $1.8 million could be collected, most of it from the U.S.

“For all we know, it would cost $1.75 million to collect that $1.8 million, and then we would all get a stick of gum and say that we did something.”

Alberta hog producers in Lethbridge agreed with the executive’s plan not to pursue the national request for a non-refundable levy.

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