The Alberta Beef Producers is considering changes to its current check-off options, changes that, if passed, would mean the entire check-off collected would be non-refundable in addition to a new $1/head levy. The proposed added dollar would also be non-refundable.

In 2010, the province’s check-offs on cattle sales were made refundable, a hotly-contested change. The move was proposed as a means to give producers choice in where their funding contributions ended up. But, since the change was put in place, there’s no evidence to support investment elsewhere, according to the ABP.

“We have not seen any evidence that service charge refunds are being invested in other industry organizations or programs that generate benefits for a significant number of producers,” the organization said in its 2014 plan review discussion paper. “The loss of industry funding through service charge refunds is fundamentally unfair to those producer who pay service charges because the producers who take refunds gain benefits from the work done by organizations such as ABP and CCA without contributing to them.”

From June of 2010 to December of 2013, the change meant over $9 million returned to cow/calf and feedlot producers. Overall, feedlot producers received 86% of those refunds, while cow/calf producers accounted for 14%.

Related: Ontario Cattle Check-off Increases to $4/head as of November 1, 2014

Right now, cattle producers in Alberta pay a total of $3 per animal — of that, a $1, non-refundable portion goes to Canadian research and marketing activities, with $0.80 going to Canada Beef Inc and $0.20 to the Beef Cattle Research Council.

An independent study on the National Check-Off indicated that from 2005 and 2008, every check-off dollar invested in national research and marketing activities earned $9 for Canadian cattle producers. And, for every dollar of national check-off refunded by producers in Alberta, Canadian beef cattle producers lost $11 in economic benefits.

As of November 2010, Alberta’s $1 national levy became non-refundable.

The other $2, referred to as a “service charge” supports the provincial organization, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (it’s funded through provincial membership fees, not the national check-off). This portion is currently refundable, though that could change.

Part of the December AGM involved voting on resolutions for the Plan Review, which is completed every five years. It’s a renewal of regulations and by-laws for the ABP.

Based on the resolutions passed, the ABP will work to request a return to the non-refundable service charge. In addition, the group will propose an additional, non-refundable $1 provincial levy for marketing, promotion, communication, industry communication/collaboration and research. If both resolutions become amendments (which many are deeming unlikely), beef producers in Alberta could end up paying a non-refundable $4 check-off.

But, it’s an extensive process to amend regulations and by-laws. The Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council oversees the operation of the ABP (and other marketing boards) and would need to approve the changes, an effort that would require much deliberation. Even if approved, some changes may not be completed by June 30, 2015, the deadline for the Plan Review.

The results of the deliberations will be reported at the ABP’s fall producer meetings.

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