New checkoffs for oats, winter wheat and flax on the way for Manitoba farmers

Long-awaited commodity checkoffs soon will pave the way for crop research and give Manitoba producers more voice in the research of their commodities.

Long-awaited commodity checkoffs soon will pave the way for crop research and give Manitoba producers more voice in the research of their commodities.

Farmers and organizations associated with winter wheat, oats and flax commodities have worked toward refundable checkoffs in Manitoba for several years. Their hard work and determination will prevail after the cabinet signs on the Manitoba checkoffs.

"The longest journey begins with a single step," says Bill Wilton, president of the Prairie Oat Growers Association in Saltcotas, Saskatchewan, who farms oats, spring wheat, winter wheat and canola near Ilesdeschenes, Manitoba. "And we are taking that step for checkoffs."

POGA was established in 1998 with the goal of serving oat growers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The association sponsors applications, gathers information and assists with lobbying for checkoffs.

Refundable checkoffs


Checkoffs are imposed levies on certain products that are sold by a producer. The levy is deducted from the payment the producer receives when the product is delivered to the market. The checkoff rates are set by the producers.

Money from each levy is sent to each crop's corresponding organization and is put toward marketing and research costs by the organization for the crop variety.

"Two times a year, producers can write in and get refunded for their products," Wilton says. "It is a very democratic and transparent process."

There already are refundable checkoffs for several crops in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Manitoba has refundable checkoffs for canola, sunflowers, buckwheat, corn and pulse crops and voluntary checkoffs for wheat and barley.

In Saskatchewan, there are refundable checkoffs on oats, barley, wheat, winter wheat, canola, winter triticale, fall rye, pulse crops and flax.

Alberta plans to initiate refundable checkoffs for oats, winter wheat and flax.

The regulations


"The three new checkoffs already have been approved by the Agricultural Producers' Organization Certification Agency board and both regulations and documentation have been completed for the checkoffs," Wilton says. "The only thing left is for the cabinet to look the checkoffs over and give their signature, completing the long-awaited process."

Certification agency rules state that at least 60 percent of farmers who cast a ballot on the checkoff must vote in favor of the checkoff for the agency to recommend it to the government implement.

Manitoba checkoff regulations state that after the certification agency has recommended the checkoff, the minister of agriculture must approve it, followed by the cabinet. The checkoff becomes official once the lieutenant governor signs it into law. Once the checkoffs have been enacted by the government, it is difficult to have them rescinded.

New checkoffs

Manitoba's oat checkoff was a rare exception when it came to the certification rules. The Manitoba Oat Growers Association persuaded the APOCA to recommend the government implement refundable checkoff without holding another farmer vote. Because of this exception, the 50-cent-per-metric-ton checkoff will be capped at the point of sale with a maximum of $250 per farmer per year.

Winter Cereals Canada Inc. and Winter Cereals Manitoba Inc. received a 60.6 percent vote in favor of a refundable checkoff on winter wheat in Manitoba. There is no current cap on the winter wheat checkoff, but it is refundable. The checkoff on winter wheat is a 50-cent-per-metric-ton checkoff, the same as the oat checkoff, and will amount to about $150,000 a year for Manitoba winter wheat farmers.

Winter Cereals Canada is the umbrella company that will manage Winter Cereals Manitoba.

"We are hoping the checkoff gives control over research and potential research possibilities to the producers," says Jake Davidson, executive manager of Winter Cereals Canada and Winter Cereals Manitoba in Minnedosa, Manitoba. "Most winter wheat has high slippage rates. We only see about 60 percent of the crop go through the elevators."


The Manitoba Flax Growers Association received a 61.6 percent vote in favor of a 0.5 percent refundable checkoff of the selling price on flax. The checkoff originally was set at $1.25 a ton with no cap or limitation. A cap of $275 per producer per year is now in place.

The Manitoba Flax Growers Association sends out information on the checkoff to flax producers. The association also makes applications for certification agencies who oversee the checkoff process.

The Manitoba Flax Growers Association has been forced to go into a voluntary membership program because of a lack of research and funds.

"The membership was $60 per farmer per year," says Garvin Kabernick, president and chairman of the Manitoba Flax Growers Association, who also farms flax, canola, wheat and oats near Sanford, Manitoba. "We would like to thank all those volunteer members for helping us stay afloat over the years."

Research and checkoffs

The Manitoba Flax Growers Association attends the biannual meeting of the Flax Institute of the United States in Fargo, N.D., each year. The meeting is based on research dealing with flax and flax producers.

"This checkoff will mean new research work that is long overdue," Kabernick says. "We have been lacking in research funds, and our varieties haven't kept up with other varieties or other crops as far as yields go."

The Western Grains Research Foundation invests more than $4 million a year into developing new crop varieties through the Canadian Wheat Board. The federal government on average spends $20 million a year on plant breeding and about $15 million a year on wheat and barley research in western Canada.


Australia, one of Canada's major competitors in the grain industry, spends about $542 million on agricultural research per year.

Producers hope that by the beginning of August, winter wheat, oats and flax checkoffs will be under way in Manitoba.

"Without checkoffs, producers are the only people who are not represented when it comes to directing the research of crops and better growth yields. It is imperative that producers have a voice in the commodity groups," Wilton says. "Producers are the most important asset in this process and need to have a say in the research of their crops. With these new checkoffs, they will have a say in the way business is moving in the marketing area and can encourage smaller markets and handle the research tests."

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