This week, many Saskatchewan farmers saw a yellow envelope appear in their mail. The SaskWheat election has started in full.
It was almost six weeks ago that I announced my candidacy for the SaskWheat Development Commission. I had actually been thinking about it for a lot longer than that, though. Running for a commission like this is a big decision; it requires a lot of time and energy, which the farm already demands in excess, and there is always the risk that you don’t win a seat at the table. Elections are inherently unpredictable.
So why run? Well, there are a number of reasons, which I will share with you now.
The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (SWDC) was started in June of 2013, with the first board of directors taking office on January 13 of 2014. All wheat (including durum) grown in Saskatchewan has “check-off dollars” taken off the sale price to go towards the commission, at a rate of $1.00 per tonne. The idea is that those check-off dollars will go toward research and market development to improve wheat’s value to farmers, which had previously been administered by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).
As a wheat grower of a moderate-sized farm, I am well aware of the amount of dollars that come off my sales every year. I believe there is tremendous value in this, as it is the best way to develop new varieties, agronomic strategies, help maintain current markets and develop new ones. However, I believe there is room for improvement with how the current board is handling my, and other producers’, check-off dollars.
I believe it is crucially important to work with other organizations and commissions. Currently, SaskWheat does not work with Cereals Canada, which needs to change if farmers are to have a voice at the national and international level. Canada exports 60% of the wheat it grows; market development is critical, and farmers are the best people to share our story with the world.
If I’ve learned anything from my years writing this blog, and from my recent (fantastic) trip to the Global Farmer Roundtable and World Food Prize event in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s that people want to hear our story. Nobody knows more about what we do than we do. Accordingly, when there are trade disputes, who better to speak than farmers? We, as farmers, need to be at the table of the biggest discussions in agriculture. How else can we ensure that our needs are being looked after?
There are so many major issues ahead of us. We face the real possibility of a carbon tax, continual transportation issues, trade barriers, and a public increasingly concerned with our production practices. One only needs to look to the turmoil with glyphosate regulations in the European Union. What impact will this have on pre-harvest glyphosate applications? We need to work together, with all farmers and organizations, to promote science-based decision making. SaskWheat cannot operate in isolation.
Wheat is not an easy crop to derive a profit on. Research and innovation must be SaskWheat’s highest priority to make wheat competitive, which is why I support both public and private research into wheat breeding. Not only do we need to increase yields, but we also need to reduce our risk to Fusarium and maintain the high quality characteristics we are known for.
I want Saskatchewan to be the number one destination for investment in Canadian wheat research dollars. I want farmers to be excited to grow wheat again. I will not let ideology stand in the way of good policy. If I’m elected, your voice will be heard.
I believe, if we as the SaskWheat commission listen to farmers, and stay open-minded to new ideas, we can move our industry forward. The past is behind us, and the Canadian Wheat Board is not coming back. If we are to truly make things better for wheat in Saskatchewan, we need to be willing to listen, collaborate, and advocate for our needs as wheat growers.
Whether or not you support me in this election, please remember to vote! The basis of our democracy is the freedom to choose the people who can serve us best.
Watch for the yellow envelope in your mailbox. If you grew wheat in the last two years you will be eligible to vote. You can fill out the paper ballot or do it online. Voting closes on November 24th.
Let’s create positive change for SaskWheat!