Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

AWC Turns Five

The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) is celebrating five years of service to Alberta wheat producers.  We’ve come a long way since our official launch on August 1, 2012 thanks to the vision, hard work and dedication of the board of directors, regional representatives and staff.

AWC’s origins date back to 2008 when members of the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission (AWWPC) passed a resolution to investigate the creation of an all-wheat commission.  A steering committee was formed by AWWPC and the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission (ASWPC) in 2011 to lay the foundation for the new entity.

Our mission – to increase the long-term profitability of Alberta wheat producers – remains the same as in 2012.  Our key areas of focus include innovative research, agronomic support and extension, market development, communications and policy development.

In the start-up year, AWC had total expenses of $1.19 million.  By 2016-17 our budgeted expenses had grown to $5.29 million, with research projects topping the list at roughly $2 million.

Our founding board Chair was Kent Erickson, who recruited me from Saskatchewan in 2014.  I’ve had the privilege of serving as General Manager for the past three years and leading a high performing team.

In our first five years, AWC has built a robust research portfolio focused on genetics and agronomic performance.  We are now funding close to 40 projects and are a partner in the national wheat cluster.  This work includes the pursuit of higher yielding varieties, fusarium head blight resistance, developing premium quality winter wheat, early maturity and cold tolerance. We are also funding work to aid in management decisions on hail damaged crops, improved wireworm control and the use of plant growth regulators.  And we are involved in ground-breaking research into gene editing as well as nitrogen fixation in triticale.

On the Market Development side, we were a founding member of Cereals Canada and play a prominent role in the Team Canada New Crop Missions each year. We were also a founding member of the Ag Transport Coalition which continues to measure performance and pursue improvements in our grain transportation system.  We created and continue to operate which is the only source of daily cash prices for wheat, canola and yellow peas in Western Canada.

Our Grower Relations and Extension programming has grown exponentially, offering learning opportunities for farmers including Making the Grade and Hedging Edge and more recently WheatStalk, an agronomy day hosted in collaboration with Farming Smarter in Lethbridge.  This year, we also launched a Fusarium Head Blight Risk Tool in collaboration with the Alberta Climate Information Service (ACIS) to allow producers to better assess the risk of FHB in their local area. We have taken the lead in developing farm safety programming through the AgSafe initiative with funding from Growing Forward 2.

Our Government Relations and Policy program has established AWC as a leader both provincially and nationally.  We were instrumental in the formation of Team Alberta – a collaboration of the barley, wheat, canola and pulse commissions - which lobbies governments on key policy issues including grain transportation, international trade and deferred cash tickets. We also helped found the AgCoalition, formed by crop and livestock groups in response to Bill 6.  And we are a driving force in organizing the 2nd National Environmental Farm Plan Summit in November in Ottawa 

Our communications team ties it all together, keeping producers informed about what we do and building brand awareness.  We are prominent at ag education events with our Wally’s World of Wheat booth and we took a major step into consumer outreach this year with the launch of Life’s Simple Ingredient, a campaign aimed at promoting wheat as part of a healthy diet.

Also new this year is the Advancing Ag Future Leaders’ Program launched in collaboration with Alberta Barley adding to our longstanding partnership as co-publishers of GrainsWest Magazine.

We have established a highly effective finance and human resources department shared with Alberta Barley aimed at maximizing the efficient use of producer check-off dollars and ensuring we are fully accountable to our levy payers.

Today, we embark on a new era at AWC with the end of the Western Canadian Deduction and the move to a single wheat check-off of $1.09 per tonne.  This represents a nine cent per tonne saving to producers and will see us take on full responsibility for producer funding of variety development and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi).

As we look back on five years of growth and accomplishment we take on these new responsibilities with enthusiasm as we continue to lead the wheat industry forward.

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