Alberta Beef Producers marks 50 year milestone

Five farm groups asked the Alberta government to form a cattle commission in 1969.  | Paula Larson photo

In 1969, five organizations approached the Alberta government and asked it to establish a commission for the cattle industry. It was the beginning of what is now called Alberta Beef Producers

That government was the last Social Credit government in Alberta, led by Premier Harry Strom. The agriculture minister at the time was Henry Ruste. Both have since died.

The government, according to Alberta Beef Producers executive director Rich Smith, “basically appointed one representative from each of those five organizations — they were appointed by cabinet — as the founding members of the Alberta Cattle Commission as our first board of directors.”

The first meeting was held Sept 3, 1969, the official beginning of the Alberta Cattle Commission.

The five organizations were the Western Stock Growers, Alberta Dairymen Association, Farmers Union of Alberta, Alberta Federation of Agriculture, and the Alberta Cattle Breeders Association.

He said the five men from those organizations, Frank Gattey (Western Stock Growers Association), Terry Bocock (Alberta Dairymen Association), Harry Gordon (Farmer’s Union of Alberta), Ian McDonald (Alberta Federation of Agriculture) and William Boake (Alberta Cattle Breeders Association) were the original organization.

“They called them the members,” Smith said, “but they were effectively the first board of directors of the Alberta Cattle Commission.”

He said in addition to serving as the first board, the five men started working toward having all cattle producers be involved, and developed the system of delegates and zones.

“Basically, it was in 1975 when they established the nine districts and each one would elect 10 delegates and one of each would become a board member. There were still eight members coming from those original five organizations,” Smith said. “By 1979, it was all elections and there no specific board members from associations.”

ACC became ABP on Nov. 27, 2002, Smith said.

Smith said the organization plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary at its annual general meeting in December.

Things have changed since that first group was appointed, and Smith said there is talk about changing again this year.

“There’s talk about reducing the number of zones — we’re not sure we still need nine zones and the board isn’t convinced we still need the sector council.

“It’s interesting. You want to move along and respect your history, but don’t be confined by it.”

In a news release, Smith said many key issues from 50 years ago remain important concerns today. Producers and ABP continue to deal with retaining access to land and water, government policies, improving production efficiency, consumer perceptions of beef, and public pressure related to animal welfare, the environment, and food safety.

The release noted that ABP’s mandate has not changed and continues to focus on the four priority areas of advocacy, communications, promotion and production.

“We’re suggesting little change to what we are mandated to do, but plan to introduce substantive changes in how we do this important work for our industry,” ABP chair Charlie Christie said in the release.

“At this year’s ABP fall meetings, producers will have a chance to look at these proposed changes and have input on how we move forward.”

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