Alberta wheat farmers united under one banner
Alberta wheat farmers are now united under one banner with the creation of Alberta Wheat Commission last week. The commission officially came into existence on August 1, coincidentally one day after the Canadian Wheat Board was dissolved, giving farmers across Alberta and the rest of Western Canada marketing freedom.
“There was strong support for creating an all-wheat commission to act as a single voice for Alberta’s 11,000 wheat producers to focus on innovation … bring new research to the table, to advance the crop,” said Rick Istead, general manager of the commission.
Istead said with the dissolution of the long-standing CWB, the commission will also help farmers navigate the new realities of choice now available to them. He said it was purely coincidental that the CWB dissolved the previous day. He said had the CWB not dissolved, the newly-formed wheat commission still would have come into effect to represent producers.
Work on creating the commission started in 2008 with a question from a producer on why Winter Wheat and Soft Wheat producers, totalling five per cent of cultivated wheat acreage in Alberta, had separate commissions working on their behalf, but the majority of cultivated wheat acreage didn’t have industry representation.
Istead said producers are expected to grow more wheat to meet world demand over the next few years, and because the Alberta Wheat Commission is the first unified wheat commission in Canada, it will create a standard for industry representation, research and innovation.
Questions are also being asked about other end uses for wheat and value-added processing in Alberta. Istead said the commission will investigate these and other issues.
“It’s only through bringing new technology and new innovation to the industry that we can (meet future demand). Innovation or research is one side of it, market development is another side of it. I think the commission can fill a need there for 11,000 wheat producers in the province,” he said.
Istead said the advantage to the AWC over the other wheat commissions that existed prior to the former’s creation is that the AWC will represent all wheat producers in Alberta and it will better fund research and other activities through a $0.70 per tonne mandatory charge on wheat that will raise about $3.5 million in annual revenue for the commission. The Winter Wheat and Soft Wheat commissions were dissolved with the creation of the AWC, but those producers will still have representation on the new commission.
The commission’s board of directors has two representatives from each of the province’s five regions, plus three regional representatives to discuss policy points and issues. While some of the regions are geographically larger than others, they each produce about the same amount of wheat.