Alta. Lamb considers plebiscite on resuming non-refundable checkoff

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — Alberta lamb producers may be able to vote this year on the future of their $1.50 checkoff.

About one percent of producers request their money back, but the rebates amount to about five percent of the organization’s budget.

About $11,000 has been returned in the last two years, said Alberta Lamb manager Robyn Moore.

The reasons for requests fall into several categories.

“Sometimes it is because they don’t know what our organization does. More often than not it is financial issues. If there is a drought, producers might ask for it to cover off that,” she said at a zone meeting held in High River last year.

The organization has reduced its annual budget from $200,000 to $185,000 to take reduced revenues into account. In addition, sheep numbers have declined so the available money has fallen off. In Alberta, the money is collected when producers buy mandatory identification ear tags.

The province passed Bill 9 last year, which allows producers to vote on the fate of the levies they pay to commodity groups.

“It is a good day when the government gives power back to the people themselves and let them decide what they want to do with their organization. What that is going to look like, I don’t know,” said Alberta Lamb president Darlene Stein.

There are two sides to the argument, she said.

A refundable levy allows producers to hold the organization accountable, and if there are a high number of requests, it indicates unrest.

“Yet the organization still has to give you the exact same benefits as any other producer who still pays,” she said.

“On the other side, there is no accountability for the organization if there is no check-off refund,” she said.

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