The Keystone Agricultural Producers is miffed over a federal decision to appoint the Alberta Barley Commission as administrator for the new interim checkoff on western wheat and barley.
“I can’t see why KAP couldn’t have handled it or why the Canola Growers or Corn Growers couldn’t,” KAP president Doug Chorney said in an interview last week. “I don’t really see the rationale… unless there’s something they have in terms of experience that I don’t know about.”
Chorney was even more concerned after learning the barley commission “would have the authority to determine which organizations would receive the checkoff funds, and how much they would receive,” according to a federal government website.
Chorney said he wonders why Levy Central didn’t get the job since it is collecting the new checkoffs on behalf of the commission.
Levy Central, overseen by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan Inc., handles checkoffs for nine organizations across the West.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the new checkoffs — 48 cents per tonne on wheat and 56 cents per tonne on barley — are intended to replace the checkoffs now administered by the Canadian Wheat Board on behalf of the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), as well as funding the board issued directly to the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC). The new checkoffs will remain a maximum of five years and are to be replaced by a grain industry-led and -administered checkoffs.
The new checkoffs, which take effect Aug. 1, coincide with government legislation killing the wheat board’s sales monopoly.
“I’m concerned because of the lack of information we might see a backlash from producers in Manitoba who don’t support the idea of sending their money to the barley (commission) in Alberta and that could hurt Cigi and WGRF funding… and that would be a really unfortunate outcome,” Chorney said.
“I’ve already had some farmers say to me, ‘I’m not sending my money to the barley commission.’
“That’s what happens when you don’t consult with people.”
The government consulted with “national grain organizations,” the checkoff recipients and organizations experienced with checkoffs, Ritz said in an email.
The public has until June 24 to comment on the new checkoffs. Submissions can be sent to Tom Askin, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 303 Main Street, Room 500, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3G7 (fax: 204-983-5300; email: tom. [email protected]).
“The commission has elected farmer representatives on its board and was prepared to manage the checkoff this year, whereas Levy Central provides collection services,” Ritz wrote after being asked why he picked the barley commission.
The commission has administered its own checkoff since 1991. KAP, which was founded in 1984, has administered its checkoff since 1990.
The barley commission is only overseeing the checkoff and distributing the funds, barley commission general manager Lisa Skierka said in an interview.
“The Alberta Barley Commission is not building programs around this money,” she said. “This money is simply coming in to 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.”
The WGRF and Cigi are pleased the new checkoffs are coming, ensuring continued funding.
“This will give us a really strong base to continue to do the kind of work that we have done promoting and branding Canadian wheat over the last 40 years,” said Cigi executive director Earl Geddes.
Since 1995, WGRF has invested almost $5 million annually into breeding research on behalf of farmers resulting in the release of 110 new wheat and barley varieties. The new checkoffs will ensure the research continues, said WGRF president Dave Sefton.
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, Western Barley Growers Association and barley commission, issued news releases praising the new checkoffs.
The CWB’s checkoff was 30 cents a tonne for wheat and 50 cents for barley. The wheat checkoff was increased to 48 cents a tonne to fund Cigi, which used to get around $2.2 million a year directly from the board.
Here’s how the wheat checkoff breaks down: Thirty cents a tonne for research, 15 cents for market development and technical assistance and three cents for administration.
The barley checkoff: Fifty cents a tonne for research, three cents for market development and technical assistance and three cents for administration.
The barley commission already has a checkoff on barley sales in Alberta, which continues. However, there will be an additional four-cent-a-tonne checkoff for market development and technical assistance.
“Direct expenses for the administration, up to three cents per tonne, will be collected and any amount left over will be distributed to the recipients,” Ritz said.
The new checkoffs, like the old ones, are voluntary. Once a year, farmers can request, in writing, their money be refunded.
The checkoff will apply to the sale of wheat and barley through licensed handling facilities in the three Prairie provinces and the Peace River District of British Columbia.
The checkoff will not apply to imports, producer-to-producer sales, and feed and export sales not delivered through licensed facilities.
The barley commission will report annually to the federal agriculture minister. The information will be made public so farmers can see how their money is spent, the federal government said in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement.