ALBERTA GOVT. TO REQUIRE LEVY FUNDS

Published online: May 11, 2009
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The Alberta government ignores the protests of the Canadian province's potato producers and introduces legislation to allow for the refund of levies paid to the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA).

The government is also stipulating the group must continue to offer services to these producers, even after it has refunded any levies collected.

The PGA was established by growers in 1966 to unite the Alberta potato growing community and focus on building a viable potato industry in the province. It is funded by the collection of levies from all potato farmers in the province growing more than five acres of potatoes.

Over the next 43 years the association delivered services to its members and attracted major processors to the province to establish Alberta as the third-largest potato producing province in Canada.

With a membership of 120 growers, and a member-elected board of directors, the PGA serves its membership under the authority of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act. The act defines a democratic process the commission must operate under and offers the membership the ability to introduce any change into the operation of the commission.

The Alberta government has determined this democratic process does not afford all producers an individual choice and is introducing legislation that will allow producers to request a refund of any levies they have paid to the PGA.

This comes on the heels of continued withdrawal of services by government, fuelled by its intention to have industry take care of itself.

Growers say the irony is the PGA and other commissions have taken on a greater role and now the government is removing their source of revenue to carry on.

"The best interests of the Alberta potato producers have not been considered," the PGA says. "Contrary to government statements, there has been no consultation between government and the Alberta potato industry on this issue.

"The government has clearly demonstrated it does not fully comprehend the function of the PGA and the services it provides."

The PGA says the legislation will create a divided industry with a support system that cannot provide the necessary services to sustain profitability or generate future growth.

"The Potato Growers of Alberta membership strongly urges the government to withdraw this legislation," the PGA says.

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