Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Prairie wheat commissions under construction

Efforts are underway to create provincial wheat associations in all three Prairie provinces, to focus on research and market development as the looming end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk will result in a void on that front.

"We know there will be the need to have a checkoff system to fund research and market development in the future, to replace the role the Wheat Board used to play," said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

The Manitoba general farm group is taking the lead on developing a new association in that province, and is now waiting on feedback from all affected parties.

Provincial legislation in Manitoba requires a producer vote before creating a new checkoff program, and Chorney estimated that an association may be a year or more away.

The federal legislation ending the single desk leaves "a void that needs to be filled in the areas of research, grain quality, market development, branding, and farmer advocacy," the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said in a recent release.

"Besides the role that used to be played in these areas by the CWB, farmers now need a way to ensure that the Western Grain Research Foundation has an ongoing revenue stream; that the function of the Canadian International Grains Institute is maintained; and that we find ways to promote wheat and barley and continue to develop markets for them."

APAS is working to create a provincial wheat commission, and is currently looking for feedback from farmers to move forward. "We are asking producers to put aside philosophical and political differences and to work together," APAS president Norm Hall said.

Alberta is farthest along in creating a wheat association, with the Alberta Wheat Commission set to begin collecting a 70 cent per tonne refundable checkoff starting Aug. 1.

Blair Rutter, executive director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said his group is supportive of the creation of provincial associations that will work toward market development and research.

A Prairie-wide group would be preferred, he said, but noted current regulations make it easier to set up provincial commissions before widening the scope.

It will be important that the checkoffs received by any commissions be refundable for the purposes of accountability, Rutter said.

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