The federal government plans to sign an agreement with the Alberta Barley Commission laying out how farmers’ money from a proposed new interim wheat and barley checkoff for research and market development is spent.
"ABC and AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) intend to enter into an agreement that will specify what dollars-per-tonne amounts that ABC will provide to Cigi (Canadian International Grains Institute), CMBTC (Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre) and WGRF (Western Grains Research Foundation)," an AAFC communications officer said in an email June 1.
The email is a response to a May 26 request from the Co-operator to clarify the commission’s role in the proposed checkoff. The government’s regulatory impact analysis statement says the goal is "to establish a base funding amount for research, market development and technical assistance similar to current levels of funding provided through or by the CWB (Canadian Wheat Board)."
The board’s role in that funding ends Aug. 1 when the federal Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act kills its single desk.
However, the analysis statement also says: "The ABC would have the authority to determine which organizations would receive the checkoff funds, and how much they would receive."
That inconsistency heightened the concerns of Manitoba general farm group Keystone Agricultural Producers about having the Alberta commission oversee the checkoff in the first place.
The proposed new, refundable checkoff — valued at 48 cents a tonne for wheat and 56 cents for barley marketed through a licensed grain company — will be in place no more than five years, during which time Ottawa expects farmers to develop their own checkoff and determine how the money is used.
The current checkoff administered by the CWB is 30 and 50 cents a tonne for wheat and barley, but doesn’t include funding for Cigi or CMBTC, which the board paid directly.
While the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act states the organization that collects the interim checkoff must use the money for research into new and improved grain varieties, promoting the sale of Canadian grain, technical assistance on using Canadian grain and administration, it doesn’t specify which groups should receive the money. Neither does the proposed regulation to the Canada Grain Act to create the new checkoff.
In an interview May 25, barley commission general manager Lisa Skierka stressed the commission won’t use the money for its own programs.
"This money is simply coming into us and we’re administering it and we’re sending it out to the recipients and organizations so they can continue to run those programs that farmers value in Western Canada," she said.
Levy Central, administered by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan, will collect the checkoff, as it does now for the barley commission and nine other commodity groups in all three Prairie provinces.
Levy Central executive director Laurie Dmytryshyn says there was some talk about her organization administering the new checkoff.
"But I was the first to say it does not make sense," Dmytryshyn said in an interview June 1. "You need an organization, in the interim, that represents producers. We represent provincial agriculture and agri-food organizations here in the province of Saskatchewan, so we don’t have that direct relationship with the producers."
Adding the new wheat and barley checkoff to Levy Central’s collections will double its operations, Dmytryshyn said.
Levy Central ensures checkoffs are collected, but doesn’t cash the cheques, which are deposited to its clients’ accounts. Clients do their own checkoff refunds.
The federal government’s analysis statement says the barley commission will be allowed up to five per cent of the checkoff for administration costs.
The statement also says the commission is to report annually to the minister of agriculture on how much money is collected and how it’s spent, including administration.
"The intent is that AAFC and/or ABC would release information to the public that would show how the checkoff funds are invested and used," the government’s impact statement says.
A public comment period on the proposed interim checkoff runs until June 25. Comments can be directed to Tom Askin, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 303 Main St., Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3G7, or by email at [email protected]
— Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man. A version of this article appeared in the June 7, 2012 issue.
Feds set up interim Prairie grain research checkoff, May 22, 2012
Alta. barley checkoff tax credit down slightly, March 2, 2012