Alberta Lamb Producers announces partnership with Ontario, Quebec associations

RED DEER — Alberta Lamb Producers is making major changes.

The organization, which represents 1,800 lamb producers, has formed a three-way partnership with Ontario and Quebec lamb associations and has joined the Canadian Federation of Agriculture as a single group.

“We now have an agreement with Ontario and Quebec,” director Neil Caskey said during an Alberta Lamb regional meeting in Red Deer Oct. 29.

“We are associated with them but we haven’t got a name yet.”

CFA membership is $5,000, and the fee is split evenly among the three. This become effective Jan. 1.

The three organizations, which represent 75 percent of the nation’s lamb production, pulled out of the Canadian Sheep Federation, citing differences over communication and handling of issues such as the debate over country-of-origin labelling laws in the United States.

The sheep federation receives federal funding and still handles national scrapie control, traceability and on-farm food safety programs, which remain open to all producers.

Alberta Lamb is also planning to change its internal operations by dissolving the seven zones representing producers. Instead of electing a director from each zone, members are voting on a proposal to create seven directors at large and hold one annual meeting per year rather than seven regional meetings.

Directors can come from anywhere in the province but the organization promises to continue recruiting volunteers from everywhere so members do not feel under-represented.

The organization is facing budget shortfalls and struggles to find volunteers to fill key positions, said retiring director Bill Gibson.

“We have encountered situations where we can’t find somebody even on an interim basis,” he said.

Plans are to increase the organization’s social media presence with more news and teaching webinars to generate interest among younger farmers.

“We have to try and engage the younger folks if we want to continue in this industry,” he said.

The proposed changes are being voted on at zone meetings this fall, and the results will be turned over to the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council, which oversees boards and commissions.

The organization receives a $1.50 levy on every ear tag sold, but it is refundable. This year $11,785 was rebated.

Revenues were $216,390 last year, but the current fiscal year has $177,113 because of declining sheep numbers and other shortfalls.

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