Cattle group tackles budget issue

Alberta Beef Producers delegates have voted to bring back a mandatory service charge.

A resolution called for the organization to push the provincial government to allow a $2 non-refundable checkoff, of which 60 cents would be placed in a restricted fund for marketing, research and collaboration.

Delegates also voted to increase the national levy to $2.50 at their annual meeting in Calgary Dec. 7-9.

One dollar per animal sold across the country is now sent to support the activities of Canada Beef and the Beef Cattle Research Council.

The organization has struggled in recent years since the provincial government ruled all service charges collected by commodity groups must be refundable upon request.

The beef industry collects $3 every time an animal is sold, which amounted to more than $11 million in the 2015 fiscal year. Money is allocated for research, payments to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and other national commitments. That leaves an annual provincial budget of $5 million a year.

About $2.5 million was refunded in the last year, of which 87 percent was returned to feedlot operators.

“It is difficult to predict the amount that will be available, and significant adjustments need to be made,” said finance chair Roland Cailliau.

The next budget will be drafted in March after the next refund period is over, he said.

The Alberta Cattle Feeders Association has agreed to work with ABP to resolve the contentious issue.

The beef sector has become fractured even though all want the same things, said Page Stuart, president of the cattle feeders association.

“Both your board and our board has committed to keeping this conversation going. We know there has been criticism that we have not been moving quickly enough.”

Changing the provincial service charges starts with seeking an alteration through the Alberta Marketing Council, which oversees boards and commissions. A legislative change is required to make it a non-refundable checkoff.

Discussions also need to be held with the cattle feeders association to decide on the best approach to changing the service charge.

“If we are going to get a legislative change, it is easier if we go together to the marketing council and then government asking for a change,” said ABP manager Rich Smith.

Raising the national levy to $2.50 per animal sold is more straightforward, but that will not be changed until 2017.

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