Guest Column – Oat organizations provide value, efficiency and resultsWhen the Alberta Oat Growers Commission (AOGC) came into effect on Aug. 1, 2012, the directors had one thing in mind: value for the Alberta producers. That’s why AOGC decided to join up with the Saskatchewan and Manitoba oat producer organizations in the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA). AOGC Chairman and POGA Vice-Chairman Keith Gilchrist said, “It just makes sense that oat growers across Western Canada can pool resources to get more bang for their buck and have more money to leverage.”
Combined, these four organizations— AOGC, the Manitoba Oat Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission and POGA—only employ one staff person. This means more money can go into what the com- mission is meant to do: oat research, market development, policy, communications, and building and maintaining partnerships with the industry to increase oat producers’ productivity and profitability.
With just over 1,500 Alberta oat producers in the 2012–2013 year, oats are definitely a small crop. It’s imperative that the Oat Growers Commission works with provincial and federal governments to get matching funding, and so far we’ve been very successful. In less than two years, POGA has been able to turn approximately $600,000 of grower money into over $5,000,000, with great support from federal and provincial governments, as well as the oat industry.
A large portion of this funding is approved because POGA represents most of Western Canada’s oat growers, and over 90 per cent of all oats grown in Canada. Without the joint effort, our funding would be reduced and we would have duplication within each provincial organization.
AOGC made a decision to save one year’s worth of check-off dollars so that there would be a “cushion” to cover our financial obligations. Now that our year is over, we are working with University of Alberta and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD) researchers to increase the amount of oat research being done in Alberta, and to focus on the specific challenges Alberta oat growers face. AOGC hopes to have the projects decided and contracts signed with both the U of A and AARD by the end of 2013.
In addition, POGA has hired a consultant to bring the major transportation companies together to try to determine how to make challenges of transporting oats north and south (since the vast majority of Canadian oat exports go to the U.S.) more efficient. Two of the Alberta directors from the Peace Country are sitting on this committee, since this is an especially problematic issue for that area of the country.
As you can see, we are trying to stretch our limited dollars from our $0.50 per tonne check off, or approximately $120,000 in Alberta for the 2012–2013 crop year, for the betterment of oat growers throughout Western Canada.
AOGC is working with universities, government and industry to ensure that oats remain competitive, continue to be included in the crop rotation, and meet the changing demands of the oat industry. We look forward to working with Alberta oat growers and ensuring success at all levels of the value chain—starting with producers.