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Farmers adapting to life without Wheat Board

Farmers appear to be adjusting to life without the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly powers over the marketing of wheat and barley, says an official with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s competitiveness and market analysis branch.

“Guys are adapting to the new system,” said Charlie Pearson, a provincial crops market analyst.

“There are some nuances that they’re learning about and there are some new skill sets that they maybe have to develop, but for the most part I think they’re doing very well in making the change.”

The Wheat Board’s control over the sale of wheat and barley ended on July 31, following the enactment of the federal government’s Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act.

That legislation allows farmers to sell their grain on the open market or through the Canadian Wheat Board.

Pearson, who is helping conduct a series of Alberta Agriculture information sessions about operating in an open market, said the change has not been difficult for most farmers.

He explained that many were already selling crops that didn’t come under the Wheat Board’s control, such as feed barley, canola and peas.

“It’s just an extension of what farmers do already.”

Plus, added Pearson, even under the Wheat Board regime producers could choose among marketing alternatives, such as fixed price contracts and early payment options.

“So even in the old world they were developing some of these skill sets.”

Pearson was in Lethbridge on Tuesday for the first of seven open market workshops.

The others are taking place over the next few weeks, including in Lacombe on Feb. 14 and in Viking on Feb. 13.

Topics of discussion include an outlook on markets and prices, identification of customers and competitors, and grain quality characteristics like protein levels that enhance value, said Pearson. Farmers are also being encouraged to calculate the anticipated costs and revenues of different crops, and then make their seeding decisions based on projected profitability.

For example, said Pearson, a lower protein Canada Western red spring wheat that’s been popular in the Lacombe and Red Deer area might not prove as profitable as a Canada Prairie spring wheat.

He acknowledged that some farmers were probably better prepared and equipped than others to enter an open market for wheat and barley. But, he noted, current strong prices have helped ease the transition.

Anyone interested in attending one of the open market information sessions is asked to pre-register at least three days in advance. They can do so by calling the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 1-800-387-6030.

Information about operating in an open wheat and barley market can also be found online at www.agriculture.alberta.ca/openmarkets.

hrichards@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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