County says feedlot tax still best approach, in spite of report

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
November 3, 2017 - 10:56am

LETHBRIDGE - Lethbridge County reeve Lorne Hickey says the tax on feedlots implemented in 2016 is the best way to keep up with the demand for infrastructure maintenance.

A report from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary argued the tax may result in some confined feeding operations closing, due to the increase in fixed costs and no way to pass it along. It suggested a usage-based fee on trucking companies, in cooperation with the province, as an alternative.

Other options it suggested are a usage-based levy on feedlots, or a levy based on the amount of feed brought in.

"We have reviewed the paper and feel that although some of the statistics have merit, there are areas that are deficient," Hickey said in a statement. "Other than statistical information, the paper failed to take into account Lethbridge County’s input on the issue."

In an interview with Lethbridge News Now, Hickey said he couldn't get into all the county's concerns with the report, due to legal action over the tax.

"I think the report doesn't dig deep enough into the real matters at hand," he said. Hickey stressed some of the recommendations simply aren't allowed by the Municipal Government Act, while the 2016 tax meets the guidelines. The suggestion of a levy on trucking firms is not without challenges.

"If a truck came from Edmonton with cattle on it, how would we know when it entered the county?" he asked. "And how would we get that company from Edmonton to install GPS for our purposes?"

Hickey said the tax is not only the fairest, but the most cost-efficient to implement.

"When you go into some of these other scenarios, we're probably talking about hiring an additional 10-12 staff just to look at the reporting of this."

The tax as it stands is based on the capacity of a feedlot operation. The report criticized the approach for not taking into account actual production volume.

Hickey said he is not aware of any companies considering going out of business as a result.

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