Wheat Growers To Consider All-Class Agency

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Alberta s wheat growers will be asked to consider the idea of a new checkoff-funded commission backing variety and market development across all wheats grown in the province.

A steering committee, for what would tentatively be called the Alberta Wheat Commission, was formed in December and plans to consult growers this winter on their views.

The proposal stems from an Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission (AWWPC) resolution in 2008 to gauge interest in a commission in support of all wheats, including spring and winter wheats and durum.

One of the main purposes of the proposed commission would be to ensure wheat production is competitive, preferred and profitable, Vauxhall farmer and Alberta Soft White Wheat Producers Commission chairman Lynn Jacobson, the steering committee s co-chair, said in a release.

AWWPC chairman Kent Erickson, a grower at Irma and the committee s other co-chair, said the proposal is in response to a gap in Alberta s crop sector and the need for greater investment in research for plant breeding and agronomics in wheat.

The committee, Jacobson said, has already drafted strong and viable strategic business and startup plans that pave the way to having an all-wheat commission up and running on Aug. 1, 2012.

Refundable checkoff

Such a commission isn t meant to take over duties or activities from the Western Grains Research Foundation or Canadian Wheat Board, the committee stressed in its release.

The proposal is closely modelled after other provincial commissions, the committee said. Producers would elect a board and delegates for the organization, which would be funded through a refundable checkoff. For winter wheat and soft white wheat growers, the new levy would replace their current checkoff.

The committee s initial proposal calls for a checkoff of 70 cents per tonne, toward a conservative revenue forecast of about $3.5 million per year within three years of the commission s launch, Jacobson said.

Of that, he estimated, about $3 million a year would be directly invested in strategic priorities. A CEO and staff would also be hired to carry out the commission s plans.

Producer feedback will be sought in the coming months before the committee goes to seek approval from the province s minister of agriculture, food and rural development, Erickson said.

Market research in 2009 found 58 per cent support for an all-wheat commission among a sample group of over 300 growers of various wheats, the committee said.

The steering committee plans to release a schedule next month for producer meetings this winter. Meanwhile, the committee said, it s also seeking funding from various sources for the consultation phase.

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