Prairie oat, barley groups won’t join Cereals Canada

Commodity groups representing prairie barley and oat growers say they will work co- with Cereals Canada, a national council that was formed to promote the competitiveness of all cereal crops grown in Canada.

However, the Alberta Barley Commission, the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission and the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) say they don’t intend to become members of Cereals Canada or join the organization in any formal capacity.

“We already have a united voice for oats,” said POGA executive director Shawna Mathieson.

“We cover about 90 percent of the oats grown in Canada  … so we feel like we already kind of have our own oats council.”

The Alberta and Saskatchewan commissions also feel that the interests of barley growers will be better served by working with the cereals council at arm’s length.

The Alberta barley commission is closely aligned with another national council, the Barley Council of Canada, which deals exclusively with issues pertaining to barley production, research, marketing and promotion.

“We anticipate working with Cereals Canada on issues of national and international importance, largely through our participation in the Barley Council of Canada,” said Alberta barley chair Matt Sawyer.

“On the home front, we remain focused on representing Alberta barley farmers and working to achieve profitability for our crop.”

Cereals Canada was incorporated earlier this year with the goal of enhancing the competitiveness of all Canadian cereal grains, including wheat, barley, oats, rye and triticale.

Jean-Marc Ruest, a senior vice-president with Richardson International who helped establish Cereals Canada, said the new organization will represent the interests of three main stakeholder groups: producers, life science and seed companies, and handlers, exporters and processors.

The organization is planning to establish a board consisting of 18 directors, six from each of the three stakeholder groups.

A search is also underway for a president to oversee the organization’s day-to-day activities.

Ruest said Cereals Canada was aiming for broad representation across all cereal types.

However, some commodity groups, including oats and barley, fear that their interests will be under-represented in a large national organization that speaks for several commodities and stakeholder groups.

“We are the smallest crop out of wheat, barley and oats so we feel like (our interests) would be lost, especially behind wheat but even behind barley,” Mathieson said.

She did not say how much POGA would be expected to pay to join Cereals Canada, but she said the potential benefits of participating did not justify the cost.

“Essentially, for us to sit at the (Cereals Council) table … there’s a cost associated with that  … and we just feel like we’d be under-represented,” she said.

“We want to make sure that our producers have full say in where their check-off dollars are going and that’s part of the reason why we have not agreed to participate in Cereals Canada.

Added Bill Cooper, interim chair of the Saskatchewan barley commission: “We are accountable to the Saskatchewan barley farmers.… They expect nothing less than their directors to invest in projects that will add value to barley production.”

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