New wheat commission to fund research, markets

VAUXHALL, Alberta. — The Alberta Wheat Producers Commission is one step closer to formation with the unanimous passage of a resolution at the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission meeting Feb. 16.

The resolution directs the ASWPC board to include soft wheat under the proposed new commission, repeal its own regulations and dissolve the ASWPC in an orderly manner once the new all-wheat commission is formed.

The Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission passed a similar resolution at its annual general meeting in late January.

Lynn Jacobson, president of both the ASWPC and Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, has been co-chairing efforts to establish an all-wheat commission along with winter wheat commission president Kent Erickson.

The two have made the rounds of producer meetings in the past year to inform farmers about the proposal and encourage them to fill out a questionnaire stating their opinions.

Their goal is to ensure at least 80 percent of Alberta farmers are aware of the plan.

“I think we’re getting very close to that threshold right now,” said Jacobson, adding that Ag Expo in Leth-bridge Feb. 29-March 2 will likely be the last push.

The proposal will then go to the provincial government, with the goal of establishing the commission by Aug. 1, 2012.

A provincial election, widely expected to be called this spring, could delay things, but Jacobson is hopeful the time window will be wide enough.

“As long as the government feels there isn’t going to be any real kickback on them, and producers phoning up the ag minister and saying, ‘what the heck are you doing,’ … as long as they feel comfortable that the majority of people know about it and support it … they’ll just do an order in council,” he said.

No major objections to the proposal have been encountered so far, Jacobson added.

Hard red spring wheat makes up 83 percent of all wheat grown in the province, but there is no organization or commission representing that crop. Wheat makes up 35 percent of Alberta’s annual cropped acres.

According to the proposal, the new wheat commission would be funded through a 70 cents per tonne checkoff, which would raise an expected $3.5 million annually.

That money will be used for variety research and market development for all types of wheat.

Peter Pepneck, a soft wheat producers commission board member, said there is some appetite to establish a provincial wheat commission in Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is actively discussing the idea.

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