Sask. wheat commission proposed

The wheels are in motion to establish a new wheat commission in Saskatchewan.

Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said producer groups interested in establishing a provincial wheat commission will be meeting in late spring or early summer.

Those organizations are expected to form a steering committee that will lay the foundations for the new commission and discuss issues such as levy rates and timelines.

If all goes as planned, the proposed commission could be operating within 15 to 39 months and would begin collecting a refundable producer levy on each tonne of wheat produced in the province.

Revenues would be used to fund wheat research and wheat breeding programs, market development work and other functions that support a profitable and sustainable wheat industry.

“We’re falling behind (in wheat breeding and research) and as farmers, we need to step up to the plate … and invest in our industry,” Hall said.

“If we don’t put more money into wheat breeding, (life science) companies will, and they will … (control) wheat seed, similar to what’s happened in the canola industry.”

With work underway in Saskatchewan, it appears that all three prairie provinces could soon have new wheat commissions in place.

Work is also taking place in Manitoba and Alberta.

Kent Erickson, co-chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission steering committee, said his group is still hoping to have the Alberta commission operating by Aug. 1.

The Alberta group is proposing a producer levy of 70 cents per tonne in addition to an existing levy of 30 cents per tonne that is already being administered by the Western Grains Research Foundation.

Hall said total wheat levies of $1 a tonne, or roughly three cents per bushel, would also be a realistic target for Saskatchewan.

“We don’t see (that) as an unreasonable amount to ask Saskatchewan producers to invest,” he said.

Hall said the need for producer investment in wheat breeding and research has never been more evident.

Ottawa’s recent decisions to scale back spending on public wheat breeding programs and close a cereal breeding facility in Winnipeg is a clear indication that stable government funding is no longer assured.

In a recent news release, APAS also suggested that federal legislation changing the role of the CWB has created a void in areas such as wheat research, grain quality assurance, market development and farmer advocacy.

Dave Sefton, recently elected chair of the WGRF, said the formation of provincial wheat commissions is a positive development for the wheat industry.

The new levies would not have an immediate impact on the collection of WGRF levies, he added.

Support for the WGRF remains strong among producer groups across Western Canada, he said.

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