Alberta Barley Commission hikes levy for research

BANFF, Alta. — After 25 years, the Alberta Barley Commission has matured into a strong advocate for barley as a feed crop for Alberta’s livestock sector, as well as a favourite within the malting community.

However, challenges present themselves every year. A major issue is having enough money to support research and promotion of barley products.

During the commission’s annual meeting in Banff, delegates voted to raise the service charge to $1.20 per tonne sold from $1 to cover growing expenses.

The commission collected $2.3 million in the 2016 fiscal year from 11,000 farmer members.

“It is a situation where we find our reserves are dwindling and they have for the last couple years. A lot of it has to do with the inflationary costs we are faced with,” said commission chair Jason Lenz, who farms near Bentley, Alta.

“There are some real key re-search projects that need to be funded, so that is where this 20 cents will come from,” he said.

Government funders like the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund are cutting back.

Twenty-seven research projects are underway, said Rob Davies, manager of the barley commission.

Administered through the Barley Council of Canada, the most recent national barley research cluster provided $11 million, and matching grants from other groups supported research like variety development and disease resistance.

“It appears there will be continued restriction on funding new projects in Alberta until the new cluster opens in 2018,” Davies said.

The barley growers work closely with the wheat, canola and pulse commissions on grain research, policy and promotions.

“We have seen significant positive changes in different partnerships we have in new commissions that have come on board and national organizations,” Lenz said.

While the harvest of 2016 may have downgraded crops, Lenz said maltsters were able to select enough malting quality barley.

With the new focus on aligning with craft brewers, finding the best quality is paramount.

There are 44 craft brewers in Alberta and more are expected to open in 2017.

“We are not focusing on one or two, we are focusing on the whole craft industry as a whole,” Lenz said.

Barley acres have been waning in recent years but after the wet conditions this year resulted in a late harvest and abandoned fields, he speculates more people might consider it to make sure they get a crop in 2017.

“With barley being a shorter season crop, there could potentially be more barley acres going onto those late or wet fields.”

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