Alberta growers want a provincial wheat commission

A group of Alberta farmers is pushing for the establishment of a provincial wheat commission, saying it could help unite wheat producers and drive more money into cereal research.

“We see this as an opportunity to enhance grower profitability through research and market development,” said Greg Porozni, a grain producer from Willingdon who is a member of the steering committee composed of representatives from cereal groups.

The committee has been making presentations at Alberta Canola Producers Commission regional meetings to drum up support for the proposed commission.

At present, only a small amount of grower funds is given to the Western Grains Research Foundation for research and market development. Canada is only putting about $20 million into grains research, and that’s not nearly enough, said Porozni. Australia, which produces the same amount of wheat as Canada, is currently putting about $80 million into plant breeding and research, said Porozni, adding his group would like to see an Alberta wheat commission set up Aug. 1, 2012. “Ultimately we are hoping that Saskatchewan and Manitoba will also come on side,” Porozni said.

Cereal Council of Canada

One of the long-range goals is to form a Cereal Council of Canada, similar in structure to the Canola Council of Canada, he said. “I was on the board of directors of the Canola Council of Canada and it worked extremely well,” said Porozni. “We growers worked side by side with all of the industry players and it is an absolute success. We need to get there with cereals and this is how we get there.”

The steering committee includes representatives from the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission, the Alberta Barley Commission, the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission, and the Western Grains Research Foundation. “The reason we have that kind of a group is that we are showing that we want to work together with all sectors of industry to make this work,” said Porozni.

The move for the all-inclusive wheat commission has been building for about three years. In 2008, the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission proposed an all-inclusive wheat commission be formed in Alberta in order to acquire more funds for wheat research. “Winter wheat and soft wheat only represent about five per cent of the wheat grown in Alberta,” said Porozni.

Checkoff money from that group was largely spent on administrative costs, with very little money was left for research and development.

Once an Alberta wheat commission is up and running, it should be able to invest about $3 million into research and market development each year, said Porozni.

It’s expected a provincial wheat commission would also work closely with the Western Canadian Research Foundation and the Canadian International Grains Institute.

Porozni urged the producers present at the three canola growers’ meetings he’s addressed to voice their support for the idea to the minister of agriculture.