New commissions to represent Alberta grain farmers

By Keith Gerein, Edmonton Journal July 30, 2012

EDMONTON – Alberta’s wheat and oat farmers are set to receive new representation this week as grain producers across Western Canada prepare for the beginning of an open market.

To coincide with the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly on Aug. 1, the province has created two new agencies: the Alberta Wheat Commission and the Alberta Oat Growers Commission.

“They will be advocates for their producers on all issues related to that commodity and they will also fund research and market development projects they deem to be important,” Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said Monday.

The new organizations will be bankrolled with refundable service charges applied to grain sold in the province.

For the new wheat commission, a fee of 70 cents per tonne should generate $3.5 million a year. The oat commission will charge 50 cents per tonne, raising about $140,000 per year.

Producers can fill out a form to get their money back, but it is believed most will support the initiative, said Kent Erickson, co-chairman of the steering committee for the wheat commission.

It will replace two other organizations: the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission and the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission. Olson said those two agencies represented only five per cent of the grain grown in the province, while the new commission should represent closer to 100 per cent.

Under the wheat board monopoly, wheat and barley farmers had to go through the board to export their products. The end of that monopoly has created opportunities but also challenges on how research and marketing will be handled, Erickson said.

“We need an organization that is going to provide some leadership on improving the competitiveness and profitability.”

Both new commissions will start with interim boards of directors. Elections for board seats are expected to be complete by early 2013.

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