The Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission is concerned about the rising amount of levy dollars being refunded to growers.
Growers requested $790,057 in refunds for 2019-20. That is up from $569,320 the previous year and $580,212 the year before that.
In percentage terms, the refunds represent 9.38 percent of the total levy collected in 2019-20 compared to 7.53 percent the previous year and 7.78 percent the year before that.
Some delegates attending the commission’s annual general meeting asked if the rising level of refunds was a concern and the leaders of the organization indicated it was.
“Our levy payers are the backbone of SaskCanola,” said outgoing chair Wayne Truman.
“We take this very seriously and we’ll work to our upmost to earn your trust and earn your levy dollars.”
He encouraged growers who have any concerns with the organization to call the staff or directors to have a one-on-one conversation to see if those concerns can be addressed.
Truman noted that SaskCanola’s levy of 75 cents per tonne of oilseed production is lower than the $1 per tonne charged by its sister organizations in Alberta and Manitoba.
The levy generated $8.42 million of revenue for the organization in 2019-20. Truman said that money will be treated “in the most responsible manner that we possibly can.”
SaskCanola director Charlene Bradley echoed that sentiment.
“We do all, as a board and staff, take a lot of pride in being part of this organization. There is an awful lot of good that is done with your dollars,” she said.
Bradley encouraged producers to submit resolutions at the group’s annual meetings on any issue they deem worthy of consideration.
SaskCanola executive director Tracy Broughton said there are often a variety of reasons given for refund requests.
“Sometimes we do have an increase in refund requests when there’s a major policy issue that people are concerned about,” she said.
“But mostly that’s not the reason.”
A more common reason given is the rising cost of canola seed and the impact that has on expenses and the bottom line.
For the year ended July 31, 2020, there were a few new larger operations requesting refunds. That drove up the total dollar amount while the proportion of farmers requesting refunds dropped.
Of the province’s 20,033 canola producers, only 836 or 4.2 percent requested a refund.
Truman said last year was the first year that the organization allowed growers to apply for a refund online.
Farmers are required to complete a questionnaire prior to collecting the refund. The intent of the questionnaire is to give them a better understanding of all the things SaskCanola does for farmers, including funding research and market development activities.