The Alberta Wheat Commission was formally created on August 1st, 2012, the same day the Canadian Wheat Board was stripped of its single desk selling authority for wheat and barley in Western Canada.
Since then, AWC has become heavily involved in funding wheat research and market development, as well as serving as a voice for farmers in the policy arena as the grain industry in Western Canada has adapted to the open market.
“We’ve come a tremendous way in terms of building the profile of Alberta Wheat and ultimately trying to add value for producers,” says executive director Tom Steve in the interview below, as he sat down with RealAg’s Shaun Haney at FarmTech in Edmonton.
The group’s current priorities include growing markets and creating value for “minor” wheat classes, including CPS (Canada Prairie Spring), soft white wheat and winter wheat, he explains.
That includes investing in breeding — the commission is part of a $3.4 million partnership with Canterra Seeds and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada aimed at breeding new CPSR varieties at AAFC Lethbridge.
Steve explains there’s demand for these types of wheat, but the challenge is growing enough volume to supply customers year-round. As a result, customers in places like South America revert back to traditional CWRS (Canada Western Red Spring) wheat.
“The feedback we’re getting from the new crop missions is there is a food market for soft white wheat. The problem is we don’t grow enough of it to supply customers on a regular basis,” he says. “That’s also the issue with CPS wheat.”
Alberta Wheat is also investing in agronomic extension support for growers, notes Steve. They’d like to see the province also create a new cereal extension position similar to the oilseed specialist role of Murray Hartman. “We’re optimistic our provincial ag ministry will start to put some additional resources behind agronomic extension in cereals,” he says.
Tom Steve and Shaun Haney discuss the many changes in the cereal industry in recent years, wheat marketing opportunities and the future of wheat extension, as well as their favourite sports movies and other important topics: