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High Taxes and Multiplying Regulations Threaten Alberta's Cattle Feeders

/ -- Lethbridge County cattle feeders, who have more than half of the cattle on feed in Alberta and Saskatchewan, are facing the same regulatory and tax burdens that shut down Western Feedlots in High River, Alberta last week. These issues are magnified by the "head tax" Lethbridge County council recently imposed on cattle feeders in the county, leaving them struggling to remain viable.

"Our industry is under attack on all fronts," says Rick Paskal, president of Van Raay Paskal Farms Ltd, a cattle feeding operation located in Lethbridge County. "We are going to see more cattle feeders go under in the next six months in Lethbridge County and see more cattle fed in the United States, which will mean job losses, further price reductions for ranchers and another blow to Alberta's already faltering economy."

Western Feedlots isn't the only feedlot to shut down recently. Five family-run feedlots in Lethbridge County have closed over the past two to three years, trying to cope in Alberta's high-cost environment.

Southern Alberta's cattle feeding industry generates more than $1 billion in GDP and thousands of spin-off jobs for Alberta's economy. Lethbridge County added a $3-per-head tax on livestock in the county this spring, deepening cattle feeders' losses.

Alberta's cattle feeding industry is a critical part of Canada's beef production system and if more feedlots close, Alberta will also start losing its meat-processing capacity, including the two largest plants in the country, further debilitating Canada's beef industry.

Paskal is part of a group of cattle feeders in Lethbridge County that is calling on Alberta MLAs to stop the unfair head tax that Lethbridge County enacted this past spring.

Government cost control and accountability are key

"We need all three levels of government to work together on long-term, fair and stable funding for infrastructure, so we don't have punitive, industry-targeted taxes like Lethbridge County's head tax emerging in municipalities across the province," says Paskal. "The other vital part of the equation is cost control.

"We, like all businesses, are feeling the multiplier effect of taxes from all three levels of government - something has to be done or we won't have much of a cattle industry in Alberta."

Alberta's Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason recently stated that Alberta already leads the country in per-capita operational and capital contributions to municipalities at more than $500 per Albertan. Even at those levels of support, Lethbridge County is planning to increase the head tax to $4 per head in 2017, further squeezing cattle feeders.

Paskal and the group of concerned Lethbridge County cattle feeders call on all three levels of government to control costs and budget according to the fiscal constraints they are under, like businesses have to do.

Family-run, local businesses

"Many of Alberta's feedlots are family-run operations that care about and contribute to their communities," says John Schooten, who along with his three sons operates Schooten & Sons Custom Feedyard Ltd. near Picture Butte. "Piling on added costs, higher taxes and more regulations to farming operations will severely harm rural Alberta, with fewer jobs and less community support for everything from schools to charities, suppliers and service industries in our small towns."

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Media Contacts:
Jim Rudolph
Cell: (780) 690-5166
Annemarie Pedersen
Cell: (403) 816-1583

Distribution channels: Agriculture, Farming & Forestry