Alta. order allows votes on mandatory or voluntary checkoff

An Alberta government order in council has given commodity groups the ability to launch producer plebiscites to determine if they want refundable or mandatory checkoffs.

The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act covers Alberta commodity groups and each must have a regulatory plan in place. Changes to the plans must go before Alberta’s Marketing Council, which consists of farmers, ranchers, government and other industry interests.

Alberta Beef Producers and the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association formally requested that the Marketing Council conduct a plebiscite of producers on the matter of a non-refundable service charge through an amendment of the beef producers’ plan regulation to make the service charge non-refundable said Rich Smith, executive director of ABP.

This Order in Council authorizes the Marketing Council to proceed with drafting the regulations that would establish the rules and procedures for the plebiscite, he wrote in an email.

The potato growers would not say which direction they plan to go at this time. Their checkoff is split into categories depending whether farmers are growing seed, processing or fresh potatoes.

“When Bill 43 came around, it put a lot of unsuspecting groups in a bad position and we were one of them. This now gives us the opportunity to be somewhat in control of our own destiny,” said executive director Terry Hochstein.

Bill 43 was passed in 2009 and eliminated all mandatory producer levies. Alberta Beef Producers was the main organization affected but the potato growers, Alberta Pork and Alberta Lamb were also affected. Those in favour of the legislation said it made commodity groups more accountable to their members.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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