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Feds set up interim Prairie grain research checkoff

Alberta Barley Commission to run program for next five years, tops

The federal government plans to set up a new and voluntary producer checkoff to bridge the funding gap for Prairie wheat and barley research for the next five years at most.

Draft regulations for the checkoff are to be available online this week and printed in the Canada Gazette on Saturday (May 26) for a 30-day comment period, to take effect for the start of the new crop year on Aug. 1.

The Alberta Barley Commission, which has run the research checkoff for Alberta's barley growers since 1991, is proposed in the regulations as the administrator for the new Prairie-wide checkoff.

The government, in announcing the program Tuesday, said it intends for the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre "to continue to receive the same level of funding they received through the previous arrangement."

The new checkoff is temporary, though, and is proposed to last only up to five years.

Beyond that time frame, the government said Tuesday, "it will be up to the grain industry to have developed and administered its own checkoff, if it considers this to be a priority for the sector."

The new checkoff follows from Bill C-18, the federal Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which removed the Canadian Wheat Board's single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, as well as the CWB's authority to collect checkoffs to fund wheat and barley variety research, both as of Aug. 1.

C-18 also provided for development of regulations to put a new voluntary checkoff in place, specifically to support:

  • research activities into "new and improved" grain varieties;

  • promotion of the marketing and use of grain grown in Canada; and

  • technical assistance relating to the use of grain grown in Canada.
  • The new checkoff is to be done at point of sale and will appear as a deduction on the cash purchase tickets issued to farmers when they deliver grain, the government said Tuesday.

    "This will be done in a manner that is fully transparent so that farmers can see the full amount of their support to grain research," the government added.

    Support for such research is currently provided through a combination of producer checkoffs and direct grants from the CWB pool accounts. Those CWB grants, the government said Tuesday, have been "non-transparent to farmers, as these lowered the final payment for all farmers."

    The new checkoff will not apply to imports, producer-to-producer sales, sales of feed and/or exports not delivered through licensed facilities. It will apply to sales of wheat and barley grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Peace River region of British Columbia and delivered to licensed facilities issuing cash purchase tickets.

    Producers will be able to request refunds of their checkoff dollars, the government said. However, it noted as an example that only about five per cent of producers, on average, request to opt out of the WGRF checkoff each year.

    The current checkoff for WGRF funding will continue for the 2011-12 crop year, the government said.

    The proposed regulations "will not impede the development of additional checkoffs under existing provincial and federal regulation," the government said.

    The WGRF, for one, "is committed to working with the established and emerging provincial wheat and barley commissions to synchronize check-off collection and regional research investments," foundation chairman Dave Sefton said in a separate release.

    "Clarity"

    Cigi board chairman Murdoch MacKay said in a separate release that Tuesday's announcement brings "clarity" to the institute's planning for the near- and longer-term.

    "With the transition to an open market in Western Canada, customers have been asking Cigi if we will continue to provide them with the technical support and expertise that they have come to rely upon," Cigi executive director Earl Geddes said Tuesday.

    "This funding ensures that we are in a position to continue to meet customer needs as we work on behalf of farmers to position their crops in key markets."

    WGRF executive director Garth Patterson added that the new checkoffs "will allow producers to leverage additional public and private investment to increase our overall breeding research efforts and remain competitive with other exporters."

    Alberta Barley Commission chairman Matt Sawyer said in a separate release that the organization's goal as the "agency of record" for the checkoff "is to ensure there are no funding disruptions for these organizations when (C-18) goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

    "As a grassroots, farmer-run organization, we understand the weight of this responsibility and we take that very seriously."

    The Alberta commission was proposed as the new checkoff agency "after much consultation with the industry," the government said, adding it was the organization "best prepared to take on the role."

    Related stories:
    Prairie wheat commissions under construction,
    May 10, 2012
    Tories' bill maps out endgame for CWB's single desk,
    Oct. 18, 2011


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