Plebiscites launch year of transformation by: Tom Steve, General Manager, Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions


November 1, 2022, marked a watershed moment for the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions. That was the day we learned the results of two plebiscites on the proposed amalgamation of the commissions.

For the record, Alberta barley producers voted 89 per cent in favour of creating a single commission while support from Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) members was 88 per cent.

The plebiscites were the culmination of a five-year journey that began in September of 2017 when I was appointed interim general manager of Alberta Barley in addition to my responsibilities as general manager of AWC. The board executives at the time – Jason Lenz and Dave Bishop with Alberta Barley and Kevin Auch and Kevin Bender with AWC — agreed to pilot the idea of a single management team to run the two commissions.

Since we were already sharing office space, finance and human resources services, the transition was relatively smooth and the new operating structure became permanent by the spring of 2018. Syeda Khurram, chief operating officer, played a central role in developing the new model and our management team quickly adapted to serving two commissions with separate budgets for wheat and barley.

Cost savings to the commissions in the first year were $350,000 increasing to $410,000 in year two. From the outset we had a vision to create a single commission and after resolutions were passed at both commission annual general meetings in 2019 to explore the concept, an amalgamation sub-committee was formed in 2020.

Following consultations with the membership in 2021, resolutions were again passed at both commission AGMs in December of 2021 for Alberta Barley and January of 2022 for AWC calling for a province wide plebiscite.

With the plebiscites now behind us, the heavy lifting has begun as we move toward our goal of creating a single commission with a target date of August 1, 2023. We have created a special joint committee of the board to guide the process with Alberta Barley represented by board chair Tara Sawyer, vice chair Roy Newman and director Clint Jacula and AWC represented by board chair Greg Sears, vice chair Jason Lenz and second vice chair Shawn Jacula.

Over the course of the next several months we will be working closely with our provincial Marketing Council on the critical path required to achieve our goal. Some of the steps in our journey will include:

  • Deciding the name and branding of the new commission–and we have already been reaching out to wheat and barley producers on social media looking for input.
  • Terminationofexistingregulationsanddraftingofnewregulations.
  • The boards will recommend as lateofinterimdirectorstoMarketingCouncilfor the new commission that will be in place for the first year of operations.
  • Drafting of bylaws for the new organization.
  • Approval from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the establishment of a new not-for-profit corporation. This work will be done in the first quarter of 2023.

If all goes according to plan we would receive approval from the minister of agriculture for the repeal of our existing regulations and establishment of the new regulations in June of 2023.

Grain dealers will be advised that they will be remitting check-off to a new legal entity effective August 1, 2023, with separate check-offs for wheat of $1.09 per tonne and barley of $1.20 per tonne remaining in effect.

The new commission regulations would come into force and the interim board would take office on August 1, 2023.

An aggressive timeline indeed – but one which our boards are committed to. Wheat and barley producers can expect further consultations on the new plan and commission regulations and other aspects of the new organization in the near future.


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