Winter cereals group struggles for funding

Cash at the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission is not plentiful.

“Our levies are way down, less than half of what they were the previous year,” said Carol Ann Patterson, SWCDC executive director.

“We’ve got basically far less winter cereals being either produced, harvested, or sold as winter cereals at the elevators.”

During SWCDC’s annual general meeting held in Saskatoon recently as part of Crop Production Week, Patterson presented the statement of operations for the year ended July 31, 2019. It showed levy income dropped to $94,593 in the 2019 crop year, down from $231,409 in 2018.

Tough planting conditions in the fall of 2018 undercut seeded acreage, but the fall of 2019 was also adverse.

“We only budgeted or forecasted $100,000 for this year’s levy, budgeting $5,000 for refunds,” Patterson said.

“It’s anticipated that we will run a deficit of about $50,000; hopefully we will bring more than $100,000 in levy funds this year.”

John Burns, a board member who farms near Wynyard, Sask., said he would like a discussion about whether the commission should stop allowing refunds on levies it collects.

He said when a large farm asks for a refund, it can be a big hit to the board’s budget.

“If anyone is going to utilize the resources of what this research has done, they have an obligation. We live in a country where there are rights and there are responsibilities,” Burns said.

“They have a responsibility to support that research.”

He said usually the same farmers every year ask for refunds on their levy payments.

“When we try to have a discussion with them it’s not open for debate, and we’re finding other commissions are also getting refund requests from the same producers. So it’s not as if it’s unique to our operations,” Burns said.

In the 2019 crop year, $4,711 of levy payments were returned to farmers by SWCDC, about five percent of the commission’s total levy income.

Patterson said instances in which winter cereals were misidentified at the elevator and sold as a spring-grown crop also reduced the commission’s check-off money.

“That’s a real big issue for us because we don’t know how much slippage is actually occurring at the grain elevators. We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get through that. We don’t know how we’re going to do it,” she said.

Burns said that problem for the SWCDC is somewhat mitigated because Sask Wheat and Alberta Wheat also fund winter cereals research.

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