Single checkoff coming for wheat growers

The new system will fund both wheat variety development and Cigi, say the provincial wheat groups

Wheat growers can expect to see a simplified checkoff system in the coming crop year.

Beginning August 1, 2017, they’ll see checkoffs for the provincial associations combined with the transitional checkoff for funding variety research and market development. Those funds, collected through the temporary Western Canadian Deduction (WCD) checkoff, have since 2012 funded the Western Grains Research Foundation and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), when they lost funding through the Canadian Wheat Board.

The WCD, which is set to expire July 31, was created to fill the gap left when the federal government ended the Canadian Wheat Board’s single-desk marketing powers. Until then farmers, through the wheat board, helped fund the WGRF, Cigi and the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre. It has been running alongside a similar checkoff that funds the provincial wheat groups, and creating a single checkoff has been a long-standing goal of the sector.

Under the single checkoff Manitoba and Saskatchewan wheat farmers will continue to pay $1 a tonne — the same as the two previous wheat levies combined — while Alberta wheat farmers will see their checkoff drop nine cents a tonne to $1.09 following a change proposed by the AWC.

The three provincial wheat groups recently formalized their intentions, signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to absorb the responsibilities and financial obligations of the wheat WCD, Jan. 10.

The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) passed a resolution at its annual meeting Feb. 1 in Edmonton to absorb the WCD.

SaskWheat passed a similar resolution at its annual meeting Jan. 11. And the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association (MWBGA) did the same at its annual meeting Feb. 11, 2016.

The three provincial governments are expected to approve the changes in each organization’s checkoff.

“And though they indicated to us they were committed to doing that, it is nice to see everything has been completed in terms of the formal decision to continue funding us (Cigi),” Cigi chief executive officer JoAnne Buth said in an interview Feb. 3. “Their funding is key. It is critical to us.”

The process has gone smoothly, WGRF executive director Garth Patterson said in a separate interview. And although the change means the WGRF will no longer get 30 cents a tonne for wheat breeding, it is committed to funding core wheat variety development until 2020.

“It does give the provincial wheat commissions time to develop its priorities and be in a position to take over those new agreements,” Patterson said.

In the meantime, the WGRF, which has other sources of funding, including a $120-million endowment fund, will continue to fund research on wheat and on crops, he said (see sidebar).

The WGRF will also share its expertise in funding research with the provincial wheat commissions.

Since their creation the three wheat groups have vowed to co-operate to get the most value out of farmers’ money and that hasn’t changed, MWBGA president Fred Greig said in an interview Feb. 2.

Aug. 1 there will be one wheat checkoff instead of two but it’s not a new checkoff, says Fred Greig, president of the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.
photo: Allan Dawson

“We want farmers to understand this is not a new levy,” he said. “It is just a responsibility change.

“There is a commitment from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to keep core funding going to the same level as before for Cigi and the malt barley technical institute.

“Instead of a two-line deduction on their grain ticket there will be one. We don’t see anything drastically changing unless our producers suggest that we should be doing something different. From our AGM and the feedback we have got, producers are supportive with continuing on with research and variety development.”

There is also a barley checkoff under the WCD that is being absorbed by the three provincial barley commissions.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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