Manitoba farmers have taken the first steps toward creating a provincial wheat and barley association.
At a meeting in Portage la Prairie April 10, Keystone Agricultural Producers members passed a resolution to create a steering committee to start the ball rolling.
The association’s primary mandate would be to collect a checkoff on wheat and barley, which would be used to fund research and market development for the cereals.
“(Its) main focus will be to collect a checkoff to fund CIGI (Canadian International Grains Institute) and WGRF (Western Grains Research Foundation),” said KAP president Doug Chorney.
Chorney and other KAP members met with representatives of Winter Cereals Manitoba, the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and the National Farmers Union in early April to discuss the possibility of forming the association.
Chorney said those representatives will go back to their boards to determine if they want to participate.
“I never thought I’d be in a room with that group in my lifetime,” Chorney said with a laugh. “It shows you that we’re trying to be as inclusive as possible.”
The KAP resolution passed unanimously, which member Don Dewar said is the result of signals from the federal government that mandatory wheat and barley checkoffs will become voluntary once the CWB loses its monopoly.
“Even with the demise of the wheat board, we thought the checkoff would continue,” said Dewar, who sits on the WGRF board and is chairing a KAP committee studying the transition to an open market.
“It (the resolution) is not saying we want to do this. It’s us saying we have to do this if we want the work (research and market development) to continue.”
One of the steering committee’s first tasks will be a preliminary survey of Manitoba wheat and barley growers to gauge interest in such an association.
“We would like to hold a survey sometime in the next few months,” Dewar said.
As well, Manitoba law requires a producer plebiscite to create farm associations. Two-thirds of wheat and barley growers would have to support the concept for it to move forward.
Dewar said it’s unlikely an association would be formed before 2014, even if the steering committee came together quickly.
“There wouldn’t be a plebiscite for at least a year, I don’t think,” he said.
“Then you would have to form the association and get the checkoff and the rules in place. Two years, I would say, is an optimistic timeline.”
Wilfred Harder of Lowe Farm, Man., said during the KAP meeting that creating another farm association would dilute the importance and value of KAP.
Dewar said the proposed wheat and barley association wouldn’t be a policy organization, but instead would focus on collecting and distributing check-off revenue.
A proposed association in Manitoba might be modelled after Alberta’s wheat commission, which producers in that province have been developing for more than 18 months.
“Once the election is over, hopefully it will be on the priority list and it will pass cabinet. Then we’ll be good to go Aug. 1,” said Greg Porozni, a member of the steering committee working on the commission in Alberta.