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In the intricate tapestry of Canadian agriculture, crop commissions play a vital yet often overlooked role. Based on the 2021 Census of Agriculture conducted by Statistics Canada, Alberta had close to 14,000 producers of grain and oilseeds. Growers benefit, both directly and indirectly, from the work of the commissions, but many growers are not aware of the wide range of work done by commissions on their behalf. Commissions fund primary research for continued industry innovation and growth, engage with growers to communicate beneficial practices, advocate for the benefit of farmers on issues and policies that affect the farming community, and engage with the public to combat misinformation.

One of the paramount functions of crop commissions is research and development. Through funding and research initiatives, they strive to enhance crop productivity, quality, and sustainability. This entails exploring innovative cultivation techniques, developing pest and disease management strategies, and adapting to changing environmental conditions. By staying at the forefront of scientific advancements, crop commissions empower farmers with the knowledge and tools needed to overcome challenges and optimize yields.

Education and outreach are a cornerstone for many crop commissions’ activities through organizing workshops, seminars, and educational programs, crop commissions equip farmers with beneficial management practices, and information on technological advancements and market trends. Through these initiatives, growers gain valuable insights into improving efficiency, reducing environmental impact, and navigating market complexities. Grower engagement and extension is perhaps the most tangible experience farmers have with their crop commissions. Most in the farming community have little interaction with their commissions outside of these activities but there is so much more that commissions do on the farmers’ behalf.

Crop commissions also advocate for their respective industries, representing the interests of growers and allied businesses in policy-making arenas. Advocacy is becoming an increasingly important role of crop commissions as they work to ensure the voice of farmers is represented on a variety of issues including fair trade practices, sustainable agricultural policies, or addressing regulatory issues. The most recent example is the work of the commissions in raising the issue of drought and water management in the province of Alberta (see article Navigating Drought Challenges). Commissions amplify the collective voice of farmers to influence decision-makers at provincial and national levels.

Some crop commissions play a crucial role in consumer education, fostering awareness about the nutritional benefits, safety standards, and sustainability practices associated with their crops. The reputation of the agriculture industry is being eroded by misinformation as more and more consumers are disconnected from how their food is produced. The work of commissions involves rebuilding these bridges and combating the misinformation about agriculture, especially on social media.

Crop commissions are indispensable pillars of the agricultural landscape, serving as catalysts for innovation, advocacy, and sustainability. As we confront the complex challenges of feeding a growing global population while preserving the health of our planet, the importance of crop commissions in shaping a resilient and sustainable agricultural future cannot be overstated.

By Bijon Brown,
Senior Policy Analyst