Alta. farm group changes membership fees

Commodity group fees will drop at the Alberta Federation of Agriculture while producers will pay more

NISKU, Alta. — The Alberta Federation of Agriculture is hoping to rebuild itself as it continues to face declining membership and little revenue.

One way the organization hopes to grow is by re-jigging its fee structure. Members voted Jan. 18 to generally decrease membership fees for commodity groups at its annual general meeting in Nisku, Alta.

The change means commodity groups can join the AFA at a set price of $500. Before this, commodity groups were required to pay $125 to $7,500. The larger the commodity group’s budget, the more they were required to pay. Many of them had fees on the higher end of the scale.

Grace MacGregor, a board member with the AFA who introduced the new fee model, said she hopes the change prompts more commodity organizations to join.

“What we need more than anything is more members, more interest, more energy and more ideas,” she said.

“Membership has declined and they didn’t see the value of a higher-level fee, so it was time to drop that down again.”

The AFA, formerly known as Unifarm, had once been a big player in the industry. All major commodity groups were members, and it managed to bring in big bucks.

However, its membership has been declining ever since the majority of commodity groups left the organization. The only commodity group that’s still a member is the Alberta Beekeepers Commission.

The organization has never been able to launch a check-off program or receive assured annual funding from the Alberta government.

However, while commodity groups will now see smaller fees, farmers and ranchers will be required to pay slightly more at $150 annually. Before, they were required to pay $125.

Still, it’s going to take a lot more than changing fees to get more producers to join the organization.

At the AFA’s annual meeting, board members acknowledged they poorly communicated with members this year.

They hope to turn that around by further promoting the federation online through social media and emailed newsletters, as well as by reaching out to younger farmers and ranchers.

“We can really show them (young producers) what’s going on politically in agriculture,” said AFA president Lynn Jacobson.

He pointed to an event held at the organization’s annual meeting where members were able to collaborate with Lakeland College students.

“Young producers could really gain a lot by being part of organizations like ours,” he said.

“People are interested in agriculture and where our food comes from, so we can fill that role and become a trusted source of information.”

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