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You’re funding crop research

If you’re selling grain in Western Canada, you’re an agricultural research funder

grain in hand

Winter is the time to finally read those association newsletters that have been coming in the mail. Or to make time to go to one of their AGMs.

There are a lot of AGMs for you to attend.

I’ve made a list of the major checkoff-funded organizations in the Prairies. A Saskatchewan farmer could conceivably be paying levies to 10 different organizations (of course, it would have to be a farmer growing canaryseed, barley, mustard, oats and a pulse crop, in addition to wheat.)

To make it easier for Grainews readers to keep up with all of these organizations, I’ve made a list of the groups collecting levies, along with their web addresses, so you can look up the latest agronomic information or information about upcoming meetings (see bottom of page). I considered including a list of elected chairs, but this is prime AGM season. By the time you clipped out this list and pinned it up in your office, many of these chairs could be replaced.

As I was putting the table together, I noticed that the flax levy is $2.36 per tonne, compared with $0.75 per tonne of canola. Wayne Thompson, Executive Director of SaskFlax, says the numbers are correct. “Yes, the flax levy is $2.36 per tonne of seed, which is more than canola, but flax acreage is much smaller than canola. The Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission is a much smaller budget by comparison. It was during the EU trade restrictions due to Triffid that farmers approved an increase in the flax levy from $1.18. Without the increase in the levy SaskFlax may not have survived as an organization that could work for farmers to grow the flax industry.”

You’ll notice that the B.C. list if very short. In the Peace River region one organization, the B.C. Peace River Grain Industry Development Council, collects levies from sales of all grains, oilseeds and pulse crops. A blanket levy of one-third of one per cent of all gross sales goes into their coffers, and the Council divvies out funds for research that will best advance agriculture in the region, whether those research projects advance canola or quinoa.

Farmers in every Prairie province are paying the new Wheat and Barley checkoff (except Alberta barley growers, who are paying a lower rate.


Money back guarantee

Almost all of your checkoff dollars are refundable. If you take time to go through the steps every year, all of these groups, except the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, will return your checkoff funds.

The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ levy is non-refundable. While it’s the only one on this list, it’s not the only agricultural association in Saskatchewan with a non-refundable checkoff. “SaskPork and the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board are also non-refundable,” said Cory Ruud, general manager of Saskatchewan’s Agri-Food Council, the board that supervises all of these agencies.

The difference is that these non-refundable organizations are, technically, “development boards,” while the others are all “development commissions.” It comes from differences in the ways the agencies were set up. Farmers who want to set up a new development board, rather than a commission, have to jump a few more hurdles, like having a higher percentage of growers vote in favour of a non-refundable levy. Ruud suspects that the newer groups, like the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission, were formed as “commissions” rather than “development boards” because, as Ruud says, “people like to have the option of having the money back.”

People might like having the option of a refund, but few take advantage of it. Average refund rates vary among organizations, and change from year to year. “Anywhere from zero per cent to nine or 10 for some,” Rudd said.

Anecdotally, some believe that managers of large farms are more likely to apply for refunds than farmers with fewer acres. The more wheat you grow, the higher your total annual checkoff payment. And, applying for a refund takes the same amount of time and paperwork if your refund is $1,500 or $150.

Keep in mind, this list only includes research and development organizations that are directly funded by farmer levies. In some cases, these funds are passed on to umbrella organizations that take research or market development to the next level. For example, Pulse Canada is funded partially by farmers through levies, but also by pulse processors and exporters. The Canola Council of Canada is funded partially through your canola levies, but also by canola input suppliers, grain handling companies, processors, exporters and government.

In Alberta, a new umbrella organization has been formed by the Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley, The Albert Canola Producers Commission and the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission. They’re planning to pool their funding to improve extension services for their members. They’re calling the new organization ACE: Alberta Crops Extension.

All farmers have an interest in how this funding is used. Use this list and get involved with at least one of these groups.

grain checkoff chart with levy rates


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