Only nine percent of producers who could vote for the new Saskatchewan wheat and barley commission boards of directors returned their ballots.
The results of the mail-in vote to elect seven directors to the wheat commission and six to the barley commission were announced Dec. 13.
Farmers cast 2,112 ballots in the wheat commission election out of 25,000 that had been sent to producers.
The response was poorer from barley producers, with 549 ballots cast from nearly 7,000.
Tom Steve, general manager of the commissions, said it’s possible producers aren’t yet aware of the new organizations, which will direct check-off dollars into research and market development.
“When we look at the other commissions that have had recent elections, pulse and flax, they’ve advised me that their return rate is around 10 percent,” he said.
“It’s partly a function of these commissions do typically have modest voter turnout, and I think the second part is that we’re brand new.”
Much of the new wheat commission board reads like a who’s-who of CWB supporters.
Elected to four-year terms, by virtue of gaining the most votes, were former CWB director Rod Flaman of Edenwold, Canadian Wheat Board Alliance chair Bill Gehl of Regina, University of Saskatchewan professor and farmer Ken Rosaasen and long-time National Farmers Union director Glenn Tait of Meota.
Dan Danielson of Saskatoon, Laura Reiter of Radisson and Bill Rosher of Kindersley will all serve two-year terms. Danielson and Rosher have a history of supporting the CWB single desk, while Reiter is a former president of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association.
The three directors who will serve four-year terms on the barley commission are Jason Skotheim of Spruce Home, Brent Johnson of Strasbourg and Allen Kuhlmann of Vanguard.
Skotheim is a founding owner of Horizon Manufacturing, a premium dry pet food maker, and Kuhlmann has served as chair of the flax development commission. Johnson has experience as a rural municipal councillor.
Two-year terms will be served by former CWB director Cam Goff of Hanley, Jeff Mathieson of Regina and Zenneth Faye of Foam Lake. Faye has a background with the canola development commission, while Mathieson has been involved in research and development projects around the world.
All the directors take office after the Jan. 13 annual general meetings.
Steve said the next steps for the new boards will be to build the commissions. Interim boards did some strategic planning, but the bulk of the work is still ahead.
The boards will determine the priority areas of research for both crops. He expects most of the money the commissions take in from checkoffs will be used to fund research, while collaboration with other provinces and national bodies will determine market development programs.
Steve said communication with producers will be ongoing to make sure the commissions are using the levy dollars the way producers want.
He also said he hopes the commissions will be able to use electronic voting for the next elections. The canola commission has done surveys that show participation would be higher if farmers could vote on their computers.
“If all goes well with building the electronic voting model, we’ll go to that system,” Steve said.