New coalition supports wheat research

Provincial wheat commissions in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have formed a new organization to provide long-term financial support for research that benefits the prairie wheat industry.

The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) is a federal non-profit organization that will provide support for varietal development and research projects that improve the profitability and competitiveness of western Canadian wheat farmers.

The coalition was formed by the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association and will administer money collected through producer levies.

In an Aug. 22 news release, the provincial commissions said the CWRC will allow provincial commissions to take a collaborative approach to supporting varietal development efforts, agronomy research and regional and national wheat projects through the Canadian National Wheat Cluster. The coalition will administer core wheat breeding agreements with Agriculture Canada and western Canadian universities involved in varietal development.

“Most of the best performing wheat varieties available to farmers are the result of producer-funded wheat breeding efforts,” said Kevin Auch, an Alberta farmer who serves as chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC).

“I look forward to working with my provincial counterparts to continue this work with the goal of seeing new, high-performing varieties that result in better returns and increased competitiveness for farmers.”

Elected representatives from the three provincial wheat commissions will sit on the CWRC’s inaugural farmer-led board of directors.

The coalition’s structure will also allow for the addition of other directors from producer or private sector groups that have an interest in advancing the Canadian wheat industry. This will allow it to pursue funding agreements with government or private-sector partners.

The formation of the CWRC coincides with the termination of the Western Canadian Deduction or WCD, a temporary producer levy that was put in place after the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board.

In an Aug. 24 interview, Sask. Wheat chair Bill Gehl said prairie wheat growers will see no changes to the way producer levies are collected. Levy money that had previously been used to support research initiatives and priorities established by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) will now be administered by the CWRC.

The WGRF, meanwhile, will continue to manage revenues generated through the WGRF endowment fund valued at more than $120 million.

Railway revenues from grain that exceed the maximum revenue entitlement (MRE) will also continue to flow through the WGRF.

“From a farmer perspective, they’re not really going to notice any difference,” Gehl said.

“With the end of the Western Canadian Deduction, the role of the WGRF has changed as well as funding to the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI).”

“Really, we’re just picking up where the WGRF has left off. We just have to follow the path that the WGRF has already set.”

The CWRC’s initial farmer-led board will consist of Kevin Auch, Jason Saunders and Terry Young from Alberta, Ken Rosaasen, Glen Tait and Laura Reiter from Saskatchewan, and Cale Jeffries and Dylan Wiebe from Manitoba.

“With the end of the WCD, we look forward to working with our fellow wheat commissions in taking on increased responsibility related to variety development,” said Jeffries.

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