Alberta to restore non-refundable checkoff option

Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier speaks with Alberta Beef Producers' Tom Lynch-Staunton, Roland Cailliau and Bob Lowe (l-r). (Government of Alberta photo)

Alberta’s farmed-commodity commissions may soon be able to make their checkoffs non-refundable again if their producer members are willing.

The provincial government on Tuesday tabled amendments to the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act (MAPA) which would grant each of the province’s 13 agricultural commissions the ability to determine whether their checkoffs should be refundable or non-refundable.

Checkoffs — service charges that are collected when an agricultural product is sold, or levied as a base charge per member — fund commissions for operations and activities such as product market development, promotion, research funding and trade missions.

The amendments tabled Tuesday would allow each commission’s membership to choose whether to change their commission’s respective checkoff model. A plebiscite of a commission’s eligible producers would be required.

Ed Stelmach’s Tory government in 2009 passed changes to the MAPA which required any ag commission to refund a checkoff to a member upon his or her request. Previously, commissions could opt for refundable or non-refundable charges.

George Groeneveld, Stelmach’s ag minister at the time, said the refund rule “ensures producers all have the same fundamental right to choose how their hard-earned money is spent.”

The Tories’ amendments had specifically applied the refund option to checkoffs for the commissions for beef, lamb, potatoes and pork, which previously had non-refundable models, the province noted Tuesday.

Alberta thus became “the only jurisdiction in Canada” with mandatory refundable checkoffs, the province said Tuesday.

“With this amendment, government would restore autonomy to agricultural commissions and their members,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said Tuesday in a release.

“We want them to have the power to determine their own service-charge model, because a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t make sense in today’s diverse agriculture.”

Carlier emphasized during a press conference Tuesday that the new amendment “is not about whether one model is better than another. This is about giving producers the choice of service-charge model.”

Commissions to which MAPA applies include the Alberta Barley Commission, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Beekeepers Commission, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Elk Commission, Alberta Lamb Producers, Alberta Oat Growers Commission, Alberta Peace Region Forage Seed Commission, Alberta Pork Producers Development Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, Alfalfa Seed Commission and Potato Growers of Alberta. — Network

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  • Lenard

    This stupidity just puts the fox in charge of the hen house. When each commission want a non-refundable check off and the Minister through regulation make the decision on refundability up to the commissions requesting it then we have a problem. O’Neil is shurking his responsibily.

  • Norm

    I’d like to see the Government pass legislation to give the Commissions the right to make their check-offs refundable or not. Producer’s could speak with their vote on Commission delegates. I for one think that if you produce a certain crop or raise a certain type of livestock and it has a producer commission that charges a check-off you should pay it. The benefits in research & lobbying you get from the commission should be paid by all the producers of the commodity, not just those who understand the benefits. If you don’t want to pay the check-off, don’t grow the commodity. If no one requested refunds, the amount paid by each producer could be lowered. making it a more fair system.

  • Stu Innes

    They call it a check off and had to pass a law to allow it because an involuntary “contribution” is actually stealing!

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