Manitoba growers surveyed on commodity group preferences


Joint or separate organizations? Steering committee consults farmers on proposed wheat and barley growers association

The leaders of a proposed wheat and barley growers association in Manitoba will soon know if farmers want one or two organizations to represent cereal producers in the province.


A steering committee led by Keystone Agricultural Producers sent a survey to 500 Manitoba growers this fall on the proposed association, said James Battershill, KAP policy analyst, who is leading the development of the new organization.


The survey results are expected in December and if a sufficient number of growers support the concept of a dual association, the organization could begin collecting a checkoff by Aug. 1, 2013.


At this point, it’s not known if growers want a joint association or two separate organizations for wheat and barley, Battershill said.


Speaking to 25 producers at a KAP meeting in Brandon in mid-November, Battershill said a growers association is needed to ensure that Manitoba producers have a say in breeding programs and varietal development for wheat and barley.


For example, Manitoba wheat growers need more varieties with fusarium resistance, he said.


However, the mandate of the proposed wheat and barley association, assuming growers support a joint organization, is not defined, Battershill said. 


“Were not entirely comfortable making statements (on) exactly what this organization is going to do,” he said. “That’s going to be up to the interim board of directors, who represent the growing industry as a whole.”


If the survey results are positive, the steering committee will appoint an interim board of directors for the association. The board will define the organization’s structure and priorities, Battershill said.


At an Oct. 25 KAP meeting in Portage la Prairie, some producers raised concerns about the mandate of the proposed organization. They said growers associations often start out dispersing check-off dollars but evolve into agricultural lobby groups.


Battershill has heard the concerns but it’s not easy to draw a clear distinction between lobbying and dispersing check-off dollars to research and market development.


“In terms of being an aggressive lobby group, the way KAP is, I don’t think it’s ever envisioned that any of the commodity groups would be pursuing that explicitly,” he said. “In terms of market development… (there) is a huge element that crosses the line into the policy realm.…. In the absence of the Canadian Wheat Board representing all western Canadian wheat and barley producers, there is a void there for international market development.”


At the KAP meeting in Brandon, Battershill provided a few possible figures for the checkoffs, such as 52 cents per tonne for wheat and 44 cents per tonne for barley.

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