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NFU rips Alta. Beef Producers’ refund plan

Though its checkoff is now refundable, Alberta Beef Producers’ planned refund process seems set up to “maximize paperwork and minimize the number of farmers and ranchers likely to seek refunds,” according to the National Farmers Union.

“Under the proposed process, farmers and ranchers would have to apply for refunds six or more times per year,” the NFU said in a release Wednesday.

ABP’s checkoff on cattle sales was decreed refundable after the province passed legislation earlier this year allowing farmers to request refunds of checkoffs collected on the sale of beef, pork, lamb and potatoes.

But the refund request system now proposed by ABP would require farmers and ranchers to make a claim no more than two months after the check-off deduction, the NFU said Wednesday.

ABP proposes to then refund the service charge to the producer within two months after the end of the submission period. All refund requests would be held by ABP until the producer has submitted refund requests totaling $100 or until March 31 (ABP’s fiscal year-end), whichever comes first.

ABP, in a Sept. 18 discussion paper for producers, proposes that any refund requests would have to be submitted to ABP directly by the producer who paid the service charge.

The refund cheque would be payable to the producer, ABP said. Buyers and dealers wouldn’t be able to submit refund requests on behalf of producers from whom they deducted and remitted the service charge, ABP proposes.

Feeder associations, co-ops and financial institutions wouldn’t be able to request refunds themselves or on behalf of their members or customers. Feeder association members would be deemed owners for the purpose of submitting a refund request to ABP.

Such a system would burden individual producers with “at least six times the paperwork as is required in Manitoba,” the NFU said.

“In Manitoba, farmers and ranchers can apply for a refund anytime,” NFU board member Fred Tait of Rossendale, Man. said in the group’s release, “and their request can cover all checkoff levies going back one year.”

For Alberta ranchers, “the simplest option would be to change the legislation so as to allow a check-box on livestock manifests where farmers could indicate that they either want ABP to receive checkoff dollars or not,” NFU board member Neil Peacock, a cattle producer from Sexsmith, Alta., said in the same release.

“There would be no need for a refund system and its paperwork. That would clearly be the best system. Farmers could vote with their dollars to support or not support ABP.”

Second-best would be a system such as Manitoba’s, the NFU said.

Alberta farmers and ranchers would need to contact ABP and tell the organization that it needs to simplify its refund process, the NFU urged, adding that producers have until Nov. 15 to get their comments in to ABP.

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