Alta. wheat, barley commissions merge staff

Alberta’s main crop commissions are going to be doing a few things differently this year as they aim to make the best use of producers’ check-off dollars.

They spelled out their plans during their annual general meetings at FarmTech in Edmonton last week.

Up first was the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. The organization told members it plans to spend up to an additional $2 million on research this year.

While the spending increase will likely put the organization into a deficit, general manager Ward Toma said the move is necessary to ensure critical research projects are completed.

He said government grants aren’t expected to cover all of the commission’s projects, so the group needs to use its own resources to ensure they get done.

“We have the capacity now, with members’ equity, to be able to invest in those programs and address some of the issues farmers are facing,” Toma said.

“Issues like clubroot, new insect pests and addressing some of the questions around neonics and beneficial insects.”

In particular, he said the commission needs to do more research on clubroot because there are still many unanswered questions.

“We want to look at what is a proper rotation in a clubroot field, what crops can negatively or positively impact that rotation,” he said.

“There’s a lot of discussion around how long of a break there should be between canola crops in a location of clubroot. Is it three years, four years, five years, or six years? We need to know that number so growers can manage the land resources they have.”

While Alberta canola is increasing spending, the Alberta Wheat Commission hopes to be more efficient with its resources.

General manager Tom Steve announced at the commission’s annual general meeting that it is officially merging its staff with the Alberta Barley Commission.

There won’t be any changes to board governance, he said, and each commission will still have its own budget. That means barley checkoffs will stay with the barley commission and wheat checkoffs will stay with the wheat commission.

“The idea is that the staff will provide services to both organizations. It will be seamless in the perspective of the boards,” he said.

“We see a trend towards amalgamation in cropping groups, so we’re trying to analyze and make sure we’re keeping pace with the expectations of both our growers and potentially our business partners in the industry to make sure we’re spending our dollars the most efficiently.”

Alberta Pulse Growers is also making changes to ensure farmers’ dollars are better used.

Membership at the pulse group’s annual general meeting voted to lower the levy from one percent to 0.75 percent. If approved by the Agricultural Products Marketing Council, the change will take effect Aug. 1.

“We’ve tried to be as prudent as we can, and we think we will be able to work in those guidelines,” said chair D’Arcy Hilgartner.

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