Prairie wheat commissions, grain firms to fund Cigi

New chair Kevin Bender says provincial wheat commissions were keen to ‘step up’ and grain companies are now on board too

Farmers and grain companies have come together to provide core funding for the Canadian International Grains Institute — and an Albertan will chair the new board of directors of Cigi.

“The end of the western Canadian deduction is happening at the end of July — that was the checkoff money that was going to fund Cigi,” said Kevin Bender, who farms nears Sylvan Lake and has served on numerous ag boards.

“So that has been in the works for a while, like how are they going to transition out of that. And so this has been part of it where the commissions stepped up and said they were going to commit.

“I think initially it was 15 cents a tonne, but that isn’t a hard number. It’s going to be whatever the needs are. If it’s a little bit less than that or if it’s more, that’s to be discussed — but we’ve committed to 15 cents a tonne. It’s a matter of getting the grain handlers on side. They’ve come on board now, too.”

The three Prairie wheat commissions and seven grain firms have committed to providing $7.7 million over the next two years. (The grain companies are Richardson International, Paterson Grain, Parrish and Heimbecker, Viterra, Cargill, G3 Canada, and the Inland Terminal Association of Canada, which is composed of five farmer-owned grain terminal companies in Alberta and Saskatchewan.) The crop commissions and grain companies will each have five seats on the board.

“We are extremely pleased that the provincial wheat commissions and the grain companies and handlers developed a consensus on a sustainable funding and governance model for Cigi,” said JoAnne Buth, the organization’s CEO.

While Cigi is highly regarded, both in Canada and abroad, its long-term funding has been up in the air since the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board, which had supported the organization. Former federal ag minister Gerry Ritz created the Western Canadian Deduction in 2012 as an interim measure.

Although the new funding is only for two years, it’s expected that that joint farmer-grain company support will continue, said Bender.

“I can’t speak for them (the grain companies) but it’s maybe something that they’re saying, ‘OK, we see good value (and) then we’ll renew going ahead.’”

The new board will meet in the fall and undertake strategic planning, he said.

The other four farmer representatives are Gary Stanford, representing the Alberta Wheat Commission; Bill Gehl and Harvey Brooks of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission; and Drew Baker of the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.

The grain company board members are vice-chair Brent Watchorn (Richardson International), Jim Smolik (Cargill Canada), Trent Rude (Viterra), Jean-Marc Ruest (Richardson International) and Ward Weisensel (G3 Canada).

Cigi provides applied research, training, and technical support services to drive development and use of Canadian crops — including wheat, durum, barley, canola and other oilseeds, pulses and other special crops such as canary seed and mustard — for domestic and export markets.

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