Alta. spud growers say no to refundable checkoff

Alberta potato farmers are expected to soon no longer get refunds for checkoffs they provide to their crop commission.

In a November plebisite of Potato Growers of Alberta, a majority voted in favour of making service charges non-refundable.

Of the 68 votes cast, 56 (82.3 percent) were in favour of non-refundable service charges while 12 (16.2 per cent) were opposed.

Percentages don’t add up to 100 because one vote was spoiled and rejected by the returning officer. The data was provided by the Agricultural Products Marketing Council.

The potato board has to approve the change to a non-refundable checkoff, but it’s expected it will vote in favour.

“I think producers in Alberta recognize the organization and recognize the strength of growers working together,” said Russ Van Boom, chair of the potato growers board.

He said non-refundable levies will provide equity within the system. It ensures all growers are contributing and therefore equally benefiting from the organization, whether that’s through market development or research.

“We want to make sure we’re satisfying the growers to the best of our ability,” Van Boom said. “With these levies being non-refundable, we will make sure dollars are spent the best way possible.”

Executive director Terence Hochstein couldn’t say what a non-refundable checkoff will do for the organization’s balance sheet.

The change will affect about 150 growers, he said.

“The growers decided. It was their choice and they wanted to be in control of their destiny.”

Currently, service charges for fresh table potatoes are $25 per harvested acre and certified seed potatoes are charged $35 per harvested acre.

For processing potatoes, the charge is seven cents for each 100 pounds sold for processing. Cull potatoes are charged two cents for each 100 pounds sold for processing. These amounts are collected and submitted to the organization by processors.

As well, 0.75 percent of annual gross income, sales or transfers is retrieved from greenhouse or lab operations that grow plantlets or potatoes.

If the board decides to go with a non-refundable service charge, it will then be up to Agricultural Products Marketing Council, followed by government, to approve the regulations.

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