As I sit down to write this column and share current highlights with you as the Chair of ABP, it has me thinking a great deal about what Alberta beef producers need to know is happening within our organization. But perhaps what I feel is just as important, is the fact that we need to hear from you – the beef producers of Alberta.
At our recent Town Hall this fall, we announced that our Check-off dollars refund was up again this year. The refund is currently sitting at 46%. We have hit a crucial intersection this year and as a result, will be forced to make significant cuts. We realize that the majority of producers in Alberta support ABP and that it is just a small number of large refunders that are affecting us; however, for our continued success as an organization, it is imperative that we fully understand the level of support from producers.
Our organization is really hoping and depending on producers to come out in good numbers to our upcoming January and February meetings in 2022, to discuss the issue of refunds, along with the other challenges and opportunities facing our industry and organization. We need to hear how producers want ABP to go forward.
Our fall producer meetings have been moved to January and February of 2022, to better align with the ABP AGM, which is now scheduled during the Alberta Beef Industry Conference (ABIC) along with other industry AGMs. The fall producer meetings provide the opportunity for Alberta beef producers to engage with their zone and provide directives to the ABP delegates and Board of Directors as to where they wish to see Check-off dollars allocated, as well as present and discuss other issues or concerns. These are times of crucial decisions for ABP, and we are asking all Alberta beef producers to engage and participate.
In regard to organizational highlights this fall, ABP has been busy working towards developing exceptional producer meetings in the upcoming months and we are eager to see the initiatives that will result from them. We are also working diligently on programs and initiatives designed to support Alberta beef producers.
What the drought crisis has given us is a spotlight into current programs and emergency relief initiatives and the realization of where they fall short or where we need to improve, and most of all, that they work when they are needed. We would like to see an AgriRecovery program that works more quickly with a permanent setup that is triggered more efficiently and effectively. The current program has us behind the eight ball, with full payouts not being realized until March or April of next year. For a majority of producers, this simply doesn’t meet the demands of payments that occur long before.
We are also working on what our asks will be for the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) program, which will develop and bring better risk management tools, especially for the cow-calf producer. The CAP initiative comes to a close in 2023, and ABP is hopeful that we will have meaningful input prior to its conclusion and potential renewal.
We are discussing calf insurance too, as we feel something drastic needs to be done. The current model isn’t affordable for producers, and it quite simply doesn’t work. Low participation in the program is a reflection of that fact. We are working on recommendations and solutions in an effort to help change that.
I have received numerous calls from producers with concerns about moisture insurance recently as well. Seeking improvements for this program has been on our radar at ABP long before this past summer. We have been working with AFSC to have it changed to a fair, consistent, and easily understandable risk management program and we continue to do so. Currently, there are 26 options to choose from on the application forms. We are reviewing this in hopes of making this a simpler, more concise and informed decision model for producers. We have also requested that Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) include a heat index. I believe that requests like these will help us move forward with models that truly reflect the factors facing producers.
Another issue that has been simmering and now bubbling to the surface for quite some time is the price discovery with packing plants. It is top of mind for us at ABP and we know it is for all producers as well. It is more than apparent that we need to do something about closing the gap between the producer’s income and the meat price in the stores – it’s crucial to the sustainability of the industry for the cow-calf producer. Our efforts at ABP to provide input, or improvements to programs, initiatives, or concerns with the value chain for ABP producers are critical to the sustainability of our industry. This is important work and conversations that we bring forward on behalf of our industry have the ability to make significant change.
As we put the wrap on 2021, I think the beef sector has shown its resiliency once again through another really tough year. At ABP, we pushed our staff to the limit, but our focused efforts on communications are really shining through. What I have heard from fellow Alberta beef producers is positive feedback regarding our communications efforts throughout the current drought crisis, saying that they knew what was going on and who they needed to contact and what they needed to do. This has everything to do with the leadership of our General Manager, Brad Dubeau and the strength of talent on our team.
We have always been an industry that has relied on tenacity, resilience and a little hope and a prayer. Here is hoping that Covid is behind us, that prayers for moisture are answered in 2022, and that we can get back to simply focusing on what we do best – raising exceptional beef. The beef product that we supply to our consumers is the best in the world. I have always said this, and I am extremely proud of it and the beef producers that stand behind it.
I hope to see you at our meetings in January and February.