”We can’t, we won’t continue to produce
soft white spring wheat at these costs and these returns.”
Southern Alberta soft wheat growers are on the warpath for a new grain marketing program with millers and end users that will assure a reasonable return for the irrigated crop.
Lynn Jacobson of Enchant, president of the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission, said Feb. 12 that only the fine details were left to be hammered out in a new cash price contract run by the Canadian Wheat Board.
With that ammunition, commission directors, armed with resolutions from all district grower annual meetings in December, are putting an ultimatum to industry – participate with growers in a contract program, either in partnership with the wheat board or one-on-one with growers – to find a price-discovery mechanism that will put soft wheat prices in the same range as hard red spring wheat with 11.5 to 12.5 per cent protein.
Jacobson said the higher yield advantage with soft wheat compared to hard red spring wheat would put more money into soft wheat producer pockets. He said growers believe a strong, three-way working relationship with buyers, growers and the wheat board will allow the initial soft wheat price through the board contracting program to reflect the domestic price structure for wheat.
Growers are prepared to leave the soft wheat industry without the price assurances reflected in the new marketing plan, which is similar to the board’s cash plus marketing program for barley.
“This marketing plan has to provide returns to soft wheat growers higher than the local feed market or the price paid by the ethanol industry, or our growers simply won’t grow soft wheat this spring,” said Jacobson.
“The millers have just found out about the marketing plan, and will know more after meeting with the board. We don’t know how the millers will react, but if they want the high quality, high yield and low protein from southern Alberta, they will have to participate or growers won’t grow the grain.”
Low protein is preferred when millers are making cookie and pastry flour. Southern Alberta soft wheat traditionally has low protein and irrigation allows farmers to control the field growing conditions. Water promotes higher yields and that usually translates into lower protein levels.
Jacobson said farmers need to know if the commission-backed marketing plan will be accepted, hopefully before growers make their final planting decisions.
It is critical this year because registered seed growers have about 60,000 acres of AC Sadash soft wheat seed ready for seeding this spring. It has a higher yield with improved attributes compared with the industry standard.
“If farmers don’t buy that seed, seed growers aren’t likely to keep it, and likely won’t grow it again,” said Jacobson. “They could sell it to the board for processing, sell it as feed or sell it to the ethanol market. If that happens, that valuable variety would be lost to the soft wheat industry.”
Jacobson said soft wheat acres in southern Alberta have been declining over the last few years, mainly because of price.
“It has reached the point we have to put up or shut up,” said Jacobson. “We can’t, we won’t continue to produce soft white spring wheat at these costs and these returns.”