New funding arrangements benefit barley breeding

Changes will enable breeders to develop varieties better suited to malting markets, such as craft brewing

Changes in Western Canada’s agricultural research funding environment should boost resources and improve funding stability to plant breeding programs, including those at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, says a top official at the Western Grains Research Foundation.

Garth Patterson, executive director with the WGRF, said the establishment of producer-governed wheat and barley commissions in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will allow breeding programs to develop new cereal varieties in a more reliable funding environment.

Patterson made the comments after the WGRF, the Saskatchewan Barley Commission, the Alberta Barley Commission and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, announced a joint funding agreement that will see Western Canada’s barley growers contribute $2.4 million over the next five years to the CDC barley breeding program.

The five-year funding agreement is effective until December 2020.

“We’re really planning ahead here … and by having the commission involved in this agreement, there will be a natural transition to a new agreement in 2020 for (the commissions),” said Patterson.

Changes in the funding stem from a federal government decision to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk marketing powers as of Aug. 1, 2012.

That decision also spawned various changes in how producer checkoffs are collected.

A transitional producer checkoff known as the Western Canadian Deduction (WCD) was set up.

As well, new provincial wheat and barley commissions were established in the three prairie provinces to invest checkoff dollars on behalf of producers.

The WCD, meanwhile, is due to expire in a little less than a year.

It is expected that revenue collected through the WCD will be rolled into existing checkoffs collected by the commissions.

It means producer checkoffs for wheat and barley are nearly twice what they were before August 2012.

Aaron Beattie, head of the oat and barley breeding programs at the CDC, said the $2.4 million agreement will allow the program to expand and develop new varieties better suited to existing feed and malting markets.

He said the extra funding will also allow the CDC to cover inflationary costs related to salaries and equipment.

It will allow CDC to dedicate more resources to new market segments such as the craft brewing industry, which prefers barley varieties with slightly different malting and brewing characteristics.

Beattie said enhanced funding will allow the barley program to make greater use of molecular markers to assist with selections and the creation of new lines of barley.

The $2.4 million contribution is expected to be the WGRF’s last direct contribution to core barley breeding activities at the CDC.

The WGRF will no longer collect producer levies as of August 2017, but it will continue to manage the WGRF endowment fund, which is expected to generate more than $6 million per year.

WGRF board members are re-assessing funding priorities to determine how that research money will be allocated.

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