Alberta Beef Producers

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Fall is always an extremely busy time of year for people in the agriculture industry. Farmer and ranchers are harvesting grain, bringing cattle home from summer pastures, weaning calves, and placing cattle in feedlots.

At Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), fall is the time when we hold our producer meetings around the province to elect delegates, let producers know about the work that ABP is doing on their behalf, and hear the concerns of grass roots producers. These meetings start the process of setting priorities and establishing the direction for the organization that culminates in our Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the beginning of December. We hold our fall meetings at the end of October and beginning of November with the idea of trying to catch the opportune time between the end of harvest and the onset of winter weather. For the past few years, we have not been successful in finding this “right” time and this year, our fall meetings started during a period of reasonable harvest weather that followed six weeks of horrible weather when almost no combine wheels in the province turned. This situation hurt the attendance at our meetings, but we certainly understand that producers will put their priority on finishing harvest or weaning calves when they see winter on the near horizon.

Despite the weather working against us, we actually had a small increase in the attendance at ABPs fall meetings. However, we were hoping for a much larger increase in attendance because the meetings were an opportunity for producers to make a decision on the future of their industry and the future funding of their organization by voting in a plebiscite on the ABP service charge funding model. For the nine years since the Alberta government imposed a refundable service charge on ABP, we have heard producers asking for a return to a non-refundable service charge and directing ABP to pursue this change. After the current government made legislative amendments in 2017 and the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) agreed this year to support a non-refundable service charge, ABP and ACFA were able to approach the government and request this plebiscite.

 

A very important part of our discussions with the ACFA about a non-refundable service charge was the proposed allocation of the $2.2 to $2.5 million per year that is currently being refunded. We had agreed to contribute $0.40 per marketing, close to $1.4 million per year, to the Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF) and to allocate $0.25 per marketing to ACFA to cover operational costs and their commitment to the National Cattle Feeders’ Association. We were excited about the potential to create the ABIDF which would make strategic investments in research and technology transfer, market development, education, consumer advocacy, and industry collaboration activities. We saw the agreement with ACFA and the creation of the ABIDF fostering a new era of collaboration and cooperation between ABP and ACFA as we worked together to make the Alberta beef industry more competitive, profitable, and sustainable.

 

Alberta producers were able to vote in the plebiscite between October 13 and November 27 at the 27 ABP fall meetings, at 46 Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) offices around the province, and by mail. Despite intense efforts by ABP, ACFA, and the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council to inform producers about the plebiscite and encourage them to vote, we saw a disappointing lack of interest in the plebiscite process among producers. All of our delegates and directors heard from producers who supported the idea of a non-refundable service charge, but did not vote. There were 1,874 ballots counted after the voting period ended, a number significantly lower than we had hoped to achieve. In a close vote, 51.3 per cent of the producers voted for a refundable service charge, while 48.5 per cent voted for a non-refundable service charge.

 

The results of the plebiscite created a very disappointing start to ABPs AGM with our objective of returning to a non-refundable service charge being defeated by 54 votes. To the credit of our delegates and directors, they did not spend much time speculating about the plebiscite results, but quickly lifted their heads and looked forward to charting our future course of actions. We want to build on the momentum of the unprecedented agreement with the ACFA and the exciting concept of the ABIDF.

 

 

ABP making the rounds during fly-in day in Ottawa

Based on the plebiscite results, particularly the low voter participation, ABP has to acknowledge the lack of engagement among many producers in our organization and in our work. We will need to consider this lack of engagement in our future planning, but we do have engaged producers in our delegate body, on our board, and at our fall meetings. We need to continue the good work that we do under the direction of these engaged producers and accept that many producers who do not appreciate the work will still receive the benefits.

 

Despite our obvious focus on the plebiscite and the potential to retain another $2.2 to $2.5 million per year in industry funding, it was far from the only issue on which ABP was working this year. While Bill 6, The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, created the most uproar in rural Alberta, it is only one of a number of pieces of labour legislation that have been introduced by the current Alberta government. ABP was a founding member of the AgCoalition, an organization of 29 boards, commission, and associations that work on behalf of more than 97 per cent of the farmers and ranchers in Alberta.  Through the AgCoalition and as an individual organization, ABP has worked hard to ensure that the regulations and standards arising from Bill 6 and other labour legislation do not place too great a financial and physical burden on farmers and ranchers.

 

On January 1, 2016, waged, non-family farm and ranch workers came under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act in Alberta and on December 1, 2018, employers and workers needed to comply with the OHS Code in protecting these workers. This year, ABP worked with industry and government representatives to develop OHS guidelines for our industry and technical rules for the OHS code that will apply to farm and ranch workers. We believe that the guidelines and code requirements are reasonable and practical for farmers and ranchers to implement. ABP also joined our partners in the AgCoalition in creating AgSafe Alberta, an industry-led farm and ranch safety association that will coordinate awareness, education, and training programs that will make all farm and ranch workers safer.

This year, ABP also did extensive work trying to enhance producers’ access to prescription only antimicrobials and we were pleased to see Calgary Co-op and Federated Co-op begin to feature Alberta Beef in their stores in Calgary and across Alberta. We are continuing our work to protect producers’ interests on grazing leases, access to land and water, and wildlife issues. The theme of our 2018 Annual Report was Charting the Future and the events of 2018 have left us with major decisions regarding our future direction. We know that our delegates, directors, and staff will be committed to finding the best course of travel to make our industry stronger and more profitable.

 

For more information, please visit the ABP website at www.albertabeef.org

 

 

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