ALMA first to go

(April 28, 2016) The recently tabled Alberta budget contained some pleasant surprises for farmers and some cost savings for a government dealing with falling oil prices that have exposed almost 40 years of financial incompetence by its predecessors.

In keeping with Premier Notley’s undertaking that appointed boards and commissions will be reviewed, the first steps were implemented with the budget.

Several destructive and ideological based commissions were discontinued, their appointed Boards dismissed, and staff redeployed to what one hopes are more positive pursuits.

The most notable elimination is the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA).  This agency boasted a budget of $28 million a year and a staff of 25.

ALMA was one of the of the three institutions, along with Alberta Agriculture and the Government’s Ag Financial Services  that put together Alberta’s grandiosely titled “Alberta Livestock and Meat Strategy.”  This document was a cowboy welfare wet dream – however, for export oriented grain farmers and Alberta’s cow/calf producers it was more of a nightmare.

In one of its later reports ALMA and company identified eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board as a method to reduce costs to cattle feeders.  The same report also identified eliminating Kernel Visual Distinguishability (KVD), which was a very effective and cheap way to identify grain varieties as another way to lower animal feeding costs.  As we now understand, the Harper government’s adoption of both these measures came at the expense of prairie grain producers.

Absurdly the organization also funneled money into something they called “Lean Manufacturing” to research automation technology for the meat packers.  Given there are only two firms (Cargill and JBS) that process some 90% of Canada’s beef, this thoughtful gift from Alberta taxpayers and ranchers to two of the world’s largest companies must have come as a pleasant surprise to them.

The Alberta strategy also included other measures to “focus on the development of high yielding varieties” and the establishment of an “Alberta Feed Grains Center of Excellence.”  High yielding varieties are already being more than adequately addressed by the Western Grains Research Foundation and a quick Google search for the Center of Excellence shows it was apparently more vapor-ware than real.

However, the money wasted by this organization was very real and the damage it has done to Canada’ reputation for high quality export grain and beef cannot be denied.  The announcement by Earls Restaurants that they had given up their three and a half year effort to source enough certified antibiotic and growth hormone free beef from Alberta for their restaurants demonstrates the wisdom of eliminating ALMA and reviewing the collection of agricultural boards and commissions that collect tens of millions of dollars from Alberta’s farmers and ranchers each year.


  1. neil peacock

    Hi very well written and balanced article clearly showing the new provincial government is on the right track, now if they made the checkoff to the ABP and CCA optional that would be a furthere correct step and allow farmers to direct the checkoff dollars to a farm organization of thier choosing to a group that actually best represnts their interests.

  2. Mary Nokleby

    Excellent article….informative and to the point. Thank you. As a city person of farm extraction I have been disturbed for years by the Big Business model sucessive Conservative governments thought would ‘save money’ AND boos agricultural excellence. The end result?? No wheatboard, wasteful ‘appointed’ boards and commissions…(we can guess the sort of folks who got to sit on these cash cows…sustainable beef propoganda to the contrary)…and a virtural monopoly in the processing of what used to be the best beef in the world.

    Let’s remember the tainted meat scandal of a few years ago…revisit the testamony of workers in those plants (many from away) who said that speed not cleanliness was the order of the day. Agri-business doesn’t lead to anything sustainable or humane…….and those kill floors were more evidence of that.

    Hurrah for the NDP government for eliminating ALMA…now lets get some local, made in Alberta practices back in place around our province. The quality of our food will be such that not only will Earl’s want it, Albertans will again be proud to declare, “THIS IS CATTLE COUNTRY.”