Barley growers are hoping a new national marketing body, the Barley Council of Canada, will spur a resurgence of the crop.
“Two years ago, our acreage dropped to an all-time low of less than six million acres from a high of 14 million acres 10 years ago,” said Brian Otto, chairman of the working group that is finalizing a business plan, bylaws and governance for the new organization.
“There are international markets out there that we haven’t tapped, and I’m sure that there is an opportunity for us. When you bring a national perspective to it, you’re a stronger entity, in my opinion.”
Producers are driving the creation of the barley council, but it will also include processors, grain handlers, exporters and end-users, including maltsters and people from the feed industry, said Otto, who operates a 4,300-acre grain farm near Warner and became chair of the working group in August.
The end of the CWB’s single desk has created new marketing opportunities to move barley into the U.S. and export markets in both the feed and health industry, said Otto.
The barley council is being modelled on the Canola Council of Canada and Pulse Canada, but has not finalized how it will fund itself. The group hopes to have its business plan in place by the end of October, and a board of directors set up by year’s end. The Alberta Barley Commission is providing administrative support for the organization.
The main focus will be on research and development of new varieties, as well as marketing initiatives, said Otto.
“Everybody is an important part of the barley value chain and you want everyone to work for the benefit of the barley industry,” he said. “It all comes down to gross revenue back to the producer, but everybody in the barley value chain has to be able to make money as the barley passes from one hand to the next.
“You want to work on strengthening the weaker links, so that everyone is healthy and everyone is making money. As long as everyone can make money growing barley, then you grow the industry.”
Otto said the barley council won’t impact the Western Barley Growers Association because it is largely focused on policy and market issues.