All-wheat commission proposed in Alberta

Alberta wheat producers will be asked their views this fall about a proposed all-wheat commission, with the goal of establishment by next August.

Commissions exist in the province for winter wheat and soft white wheat, but producers from both think an all-wheat commission would generate more money for research and market development for all types of wheat grown in Alberta.

“It seems like money is slowly getting whittled away for basic research, and if we lose our basic research right now, we’re not going to find out for 10 years and then all of a sudden we’ll realize we have no varieties coming out,” said Kent Erickson, a farmer from Wainwright.

He and Lynn Jacobson of Enchant are on a steering committee to explore the proposal and intend to give more information to producers if they can get on commodity groups’ fall meeting agendas.

“The majority of spring wheat producers in Alberta are also canola producers and pea producers and winter wheat producers and barley producers, and they all have commissions as it stands right now,” said Erickson.

“It does show producers do see a value in commissions.”

An Ipsos Forward survey of 300 wheat producers found that 58 percent supported a checkoff to fund a wheat commission, said Erickson.

Seventeen percent were not in favour and most of the rest said they needed more information to make an informed decision. The steering committee has developed a business plan, which includes a proposed 70 cents per tonne checkoff.

Erickson said that number is based on the 30 cents per tonne checkoff already applied on Canadian Wheat Board grain that goes to the Western Grains Research Foundation.

A 70 cent checkoff for a wheat commission would mean an even $1 per tonne for all Alberta wheat.

However, the number may be adjusted based on producer feedback this fall.

“It’s up for discussion but it’s a fairly strong number for where our revenues would be at,” said Erickson.

Alberta’s five-year average wheat production is 7.6 million tonnes. Erickson said $3.5 million per year could be raised after subtracting wheat use for feed and other purposes.

That could make government and researchers take notice.

“It’s a lot easier to match money than if we were to sit here and say, ‘we need more research dollars but we have no money to put into it.’ ”

Erickson hopes the commission can be created by August. That is the same time the CWB is scheduled to lose its monopoly on wheat and export barley, but he said the two events are not directly connected.

The commission’s goal is to obtain funding for grassroots research and market development, he said. It is not intended to replace wheat board programs or activities.

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