Producer contributions to variety development

After reading through numerous consultation reports and reviewing expenditures in the annual reports of producer organizations I have come to two conclusions: producers have and continue to make significant contributions to variety development and it’s very difficult to pin down the exact amount they contribute through various channels including royalties, check-off dollars that go to variety development and WGRF which manages a large endowment of producer money.

I initially contacted AAFC to find out what their annual budget for wheat breeding is and what portion of that would come from producers. Elizabeth Foster, director general at AAFC, responded that “Given the multidisciplinary and integrated nature of AAFC’s wheat science program, which includes variety development, we are not in a position to provide

a reliable estimate of spending for wheat breeding in Western Canada.”

Their annual revenue from royalties for 2017-18 was $4 million.

Starting in 2015, the Western Grains Research Foundation contributed $20 million over five years to core funding for wheat breeding at AAFC and $1.4 million per year for barley breeding. These agreements end in 2020.

In 2013 a five-year wheat science agreement between producer groups and the federal government was announced as part of Growing Forward II. This $25.2 million of project-based funding included $12.5 million from the AAFC budget and $12.7 million of producer money from WGRF, Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance, an Eastern Canada- based farm group.

Growing Forward II expired in 2018 and its replacement — the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) — will be announced early in 2019. Lauren Comin, research director of AWC, said she could not discuss specifics of the announcement, but said that her organizations contribution to the cluster under CAP “will be approximately double what they were under GFII.”

The wheat commissions from all three prairie provinces are contributing to the CAP wheat cluster under the banner of the newly formed Canadian Wheat Research Coalition. This organization will likely also take over the core funding of wheat breeding at AAFC and other institutions when WGRF’s core agreements end in 2020 and 2021.

Comin said AWC’s annual research budget is $2.82 million with about 75 per cent of that going to genetics projects. This includes the $1.3 million that AWC contributed to the Growing Forward II wheat science cluster and $766,500 over five years to a three-way partnership between AWC, Canterra Seeds and AAFC to specifically develop CPS wheat varieties.

In 2016, WGRF announced five-year agreements with the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatoon. Those total $5.2 million for wheat breeding and $2.4 million for barley breeding.

A 2016 report produced for the CDC by JRG Consulting indicated that the Saskatchewan government has contributed just over $100 million to CDC for research and development between 1984 and 2014. During roughly that same time frame, WGRF contributed $33.7 million and royalties accounted for $26.8 million of CDC revenues. The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers became a major funder of CDC in 1997 and by the time their current agreement expires in 2020 they will have contributed $53 million of producer money to pulse variety development.

Another industry report compiled by JRG Consulting in 2015 concluded that producers and private industry each contributed about $6.2 million to wheat breeding each year, while the government and public universities contributed about $33.7 million per year. These numbers appear to have changed quite a bit in the last four years. WGRF alone contributed $8.3 to $9.9 million annually to wheat breeding between 2015 and 2018. According to a study by the Canadian Seed Trade Association which looks at private investment in plant breeding, their members are now investing $20.8 million annually in wheat breeding.

Since 1995 WGRF has contributed $96.9 million to wheat breeding in Western Canada and $16.4 million to barley breeding during the same time. Provincial wheat and barley commissions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also contributed directly to variety development, but those specific numbers were not readily available. Since those organizations are fairly new, their contribution to date is relatively small, but set to grow.

About the author


Sarah Hoffmann

Sarah Hoffman, formerly Sarah Weigum, grows pedigreed seed and writes at Three Hills, Alta. Follow her on Twitter: @sweigum.

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