Full steam ahead for Saskatchewan wheat and barley commissionsAfter a year of planning and preparation, Saskatchewan’s new wheat and barley commissions are up and running, with clear direction and big plans.
“Our mandate is to make sure that money that’s collected and used for research adds value to the producers’ barley production,” said Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SBDC) Interim Chair Bill Cooper. “It is a fairly high level of responsibility that is placed on the board of directors.”
“We’re really just looking to give control back to the producers,” said Saskatchewan Wheat Development Com- mission (SWDC) Interim Chair Cherilyn Nagel. “The premise for setting up this commission is to give producers the resources and the leadership that we’re going to need to give Saskatchewan wheat producers a competitive advantage and make sure that their interests are protected.”
The commissions were formally established on June 20 at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina. As of Aug. 1, both commissions have been fully operational and collecting check-offs of 50 cents per tonne for barley and 52 cents per tonne for wheat. This will create estimated annual revenues of $1 million for barley and $4.3 million for wheat, ac- cording to government of Saskatchewan statistics.
“On the one hand, that’s a significant amount of money that we hope to do some really good things with. On the other hand, it’s not enough to do some of the really grandiose things we want to see happening with wheat on the Prairies,” said Nagel. “So being able to leverage that amount—double it, triple it, quadruple it in some cases—will re- ally give us the long-term benefits we’re looking for.”
Both Cooper and Nagel were clear when it comes to their immediate priorities.
“We have to try and zero in on some research projects that are going to be transparent and show that they are adding value to the growers’ barley,” said Cooper.
The creation of the new commissions stemmed from a meeting held by the Saskatchewan agriculture ministry in June 2012, which included representatives from the province’s existing provincial check-off groups, as well as from organizations like the Western Barley Growers Association and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers. After a day of discussions, attendees decided on the single-commodity approach—a separate commission for both wheat and barley, each with its own board of directors.
Shortly thereafter, steering committees were appointed for barley and wheat, led by Cooper and Nagel, respectively, to gauge the level of support for the prospective commissions.
“Our job was to get out and visit with farm organizations, farmers and so on, and just see what the acceptance level was for these check-offs,” said Cooper.
“We knew that we were big supporters of research and we could see the benefits coming out of that for producers, but we needed to make sure that the rest of the farm community felt that, too,” said Nagel.
The SBDC and SWDC drew considerable inspiration from the experiences of existing provincial commissions across the Prairies, as they assembled the blue- prints for their own organizations.
Cooper has worked with Alberta Bar- ley throughout the SBDC’s developmental stages and said the two organizations will continue to work closely moving forward.
“Its been great working with Alberta Barley because we have a lot in common,” said Cooper. “[Alberta Barley] has been in place for over 20 years, so they’ve got a lot of experience and we certainly intend to co-operate closely with them.”
Nagel said she has had a similarly positive experience working with other provincial commodity groups during her agricultural career.
“We already have great communication with many of those boards,” she said. “We all have a common goal to push our own commodities to the fore- front and I foresee that this commission will work very well with the other commissions, especially the other cereals commissions provincially.”
The commissions will share a general manager and administrative staff. Elections for each commission’s board of directors will take place this fall to replace the current interim boards.