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Friday, 15 June 2012 10:40

All wheat commission growing strong: survey confirms support

Written by  Taylor Shire
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It looks as though the province of Alberta will be getting an all-wheat commission.

“This is not in any way shape or form meant to replace the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB),” said Lynn Jacobson, co-chair of the Alberta All-Wheat Commission Steering Committee.
“It’s just a coincidence that the timing happened when the government’s taking down the CWB.”
If all goes as planned, an Alberta Wheat Commission will be implemented on Aug. 1. Alberta producers will have an option to pay 70 cents per ton on all nine types of wheat. The funds will go towards new cultivars and more research.
“Research and a little bit crop development work and maybe a little bit of participation in some market development work,” said Jacobson, who said the commission will also look at new plant varieties and new agronomic practices.
A survey done by the steering committee found 82 per cent of Alberta producers supported a new commission. Three-and-a-half per cent didn’t support it, and 14.5 per cent were unsure.
“I wasn’t really surprised about (the results),” said Jacobson. “From talking and all the stuff we’ve done with producers, it seemed to be a natural progression that was waiting to happen when the climate was right for it.”
Producers were polled from November 2011 to April 2012 at a variety of industry events and on the all-wheat commission website. There were 483 respondents, which represent six per cent of the 8,000 wheat producers in the province.
Now the commission must go through the Verlyn Olson, Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who will bring it to the cabinet for an Order in Council.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve met all the criteria that they want,” said Jacobson.
He said the recent provincial election shouldn’t change things either.
“All the infrastructure is still there, so we think we’re well on track to implement August 1.”
If it goes forward, all producers who have paid a check-off to the commission on any wheat cultivar will be included. Previously, there have been soft wheat and winter wheat commissions, but now those will be abolished and included in the new commission.
“We started out with individual crop cultivars,” said Jacobson. “Basically there was only the two. There was nothing for hard wheat, feed wheat, durum. It just made economic sense to maybe go this way and see what producers wanted to do.”
The commission has been in the works for about three years and he believes the prices are reasonable.
“It’s a refundable check off too,” he said. “If producers don’t want to participate, they don’t have to.”
The commission would give the group a capital base in order to do research and other things to move the industry forward. Jacobson expects the commission to bring in about $3-million each year.
“This is a way producers have a voice in saying where our industry goes,” he said. “We hope we have a large participation rate of producers.”
The committee will direct the commission for the next year, if it’s implemented. Then next fall, the group will hold an election to elect regional directors, delegates and board members for the five districts in Alberta. Jacobson said it’s time wheat got this sort of commission.
“Things are developing with other crops,” he said. “Wheat in Western Canada, we have some very good varieties and that going along, we can see in the future, the need for more attention to be paid to wheat cultivars and try to raise the profile and economic benefit to producers of wheat.”
The new commission will also benefit the future of the grain industry.
“Part of our budget is going to go to education for producers,” said Jacobson. “Not only on research aspects but also how the grain industry works in Western Canada. Most people do not understand that system and they’ve never become involved.
“Producers are going to need that information to operate.”

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