How Many Commissions Does Western Canada Need?

Today, I have far more questions than answers. 

At FarmTech, I spoke with one farmer about the Alberta Wheat Commission — its proposed role, its goals, who was involved. It all sounded on the up-and-up and very noble, though I got the sense I had heard the speech before. Before that, in Saskatchewan, I spoke with an industry-type about the proposed Saskatchewan commission. Then I asked the Western Grains Research Foundation what it did. And then I spoke with someone about changes to the Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission.

Still with me? Good, because you know what I came up with? Questions. And more questions. Dear readers, could you provide your answers and opinions? Because, so far, this is my list:

Does each province really need its own wheat commission? Barley commission? Winter wheat commission? Where does it end? Why are we not using the Canadian Grains Council as one, over-arching body? Where does the WGRF play into all of this? Are we headed towards total farmer burn-out as the few who decide to sit on these boards spread themselves too thin? Is this not simple duplication? Inefficient? Ineffective?

There is a comment period on right now about the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission. My comment is — is this the best way to go about this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.


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David Kucher

What do provincial boundries have to do with wheat and barley breeding anyways? If they think they need this many boards, spliting then up by soil zone would make much more sense.

Ken Sarauer

I agree with David, at the very least amalgamate the oats, barley, wheat and perhaps canary seed into a cereals board. Its not only just for the fact of farmer fatigue. Perhaps there are lots of efficiencies to be gained by only having a couple of boards instead of the dozen or so that there are now. Perhaps if the the CCGA was more directed towards oil-seeds we would see some research into soybeans and other alternatives that might benefit the farmer.

I would like to take this a step further and see some more amalgamation between the provincial ministries of agriculture, IE, why does each one need to come out with their own separate pesticide guide.

That being said I still have no problem with check-offs as I think it is invaluable the research, marketing and information that is provided by these organizations.

Lyndsey Smith

Now we’re talking — there’s more difference between soil zones or crop types than there are between provincial lines. And I like the comment about the provincial guides. So inefficient!


Ken, its interesting that you mention the Pesticide guide. MB and Sask already have the same guide. The only diff is the cover. Yes, the 3 prairie prov need to have only 1 cereal or grains board with adequate representation from each prov.


There is no mechanism to set up the collection of a levy on commodity sales across provincial boundaries. The WGRF authority rests within the CWB legislation. The
Prairie Oat Growes attempted it and had to retreat to provincial commissions to collect the levy and then work together. So until the federal government and the provincial governments can agree on how to make this happen, farmers have to use what is in place to get things done.


I like Ken’s comments. We have lots of efficiencies to gain by working together on collaborative issues. However, the mechanism in place to put money into research and development specific to each crop works well with individual commissions for now. The change to the CWB has triggered the activities for wheat and barley commissions to start up. We need this as a building block for future collaboration. Provincial boundaries regarding check-offs and the political atmospheres make it almost impossible to join across provinces however collaboration within commissions is definitley the way of the future. In Alberta, canola, barley and pulse definitely achieve individual success with specific issues to their crop type. An excellent example of collaboration is the FarmTech conference. The major commissions have created an event that is unmatched in education and networking for farmers in western Canada. The new wheat commission in Alberta hope to build on the solid commission history in Alberta and continue to grow wheat growers profitability and promote agriculture to its consumers efficiently using a small amount of producers dollars.


a little disapointed at the negatively slanted lead in of the article. More commisions means more farm leaders engaged in leading agriculture. The more men and women we can include in leadership who are actual producers the better. The article is about comisions but some of the comments are about ag departments. The two are not the same. However both are an outworking of the way legislation provincialy and federally exists presently as ward has mentuoned earlier in these coments. As long as commisions are held accountable and have farmers in charge they will add value for farmers. Duplication does need to be reduced whenever possible but it is better tohave double coverage than to have none.


Firstly, the Sask and Manitoba crop guides are different, I recall not being able to find a chemical in the Sask guide that I could in the Man. guide of the same year. Secondly, the reason why an all-encompassing “cereal board” won’t work is because the mandate will be too big. The balance of wheat acres vs barley acres would probably mean that barley would end up being underrepresented. The amount of money from wheat checkoff would greatly out-pace that of barley, particulary since barley dollars aren’t collected at feed-lots. Would farmers appreciate wheat check-off dollars going toward barley lobbying efforts? Or malt producers subsidizing the breeding of feed barley varieties? I doubt it. Provincial boards don’t need to be huge, but they need to be there. The Canada Grain Council won’t be able to do it, they have too much industry representation, and not enough farmers on the board to perform an effective lobby on behalf of the farmers who pay for it.


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