With the news last week that the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association has become a member of Cereals Canada, some farmers in Saskatchewan are now wondering where their provincial organization — the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission — stands.
According to its strategic plan unveiled earlier this month, the goal for the newly-formed Cereals Canada is “to ensure a profitable and vibrant future for all links in the cereals value chain,” including farmers who grow Canada’s largest cereal crop in the highest producing province.
Along with the Manitoba grower group, the list of producer organizations that are already members in Cereals Canada includes the Alberta Wheat Commission, the BC Grain Producers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Federation des producers de cultures commerciales du Quebec and the Atlantic Grains Council.
While the priorities of Cereals Canada — advancing market development, innovation, advocacy and so on — appear to align with those of the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission, there seems to be one main hangup: the structure of Cereals Canada’s board of directors. The board is split three ways, giving farmers, life science companies and grain companies equal representation (a third each.) According to the strategic plan, this was “both deliberate and important. All stakeholders involved in growing, marketing or processing cereal grains are better off when the industry works together toward common goals. This is best accomplished if all links in the value chain have an equal opportunity for input.”
SWDC General Manager Harvey Brooks says the board decided at a meeting in late July to “defer joining” Cereals Canada, citing the board governance structure as the main reason. “SWDC expects to play a major role in partnering in innovation and market development while maintaining its independence to advocate for Saskatchewan wheat producers,” he says.
So will being absent from the Cereals Canada board table serve Saskatchewan farmers better than being there? Or does the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission sees itself as large enough, with enough resources and clout to advance its priorities on its own? In some ways, it is still early in the process of developing the post-CWB structure for the industry. Many of these organizations are still trying to figure out where they belong and what their role is.
Saskatchewan farmers who would like to see the Cereals Canada issue discussed with the entire membership can bring their questions or concerns forward at the annual meeting slated for Saskatoon in early January.