Small Grains Support
Small Grain Support
Within the next year, small grain and oilseed growers in Juab county and the rest of the state, will have the opportunity to vote to approve or deny a market order to support their industry in Utah. By supporting this market order, research benefiting Utah agribusiness for decades will continue to thrive in an environment where government-funded research dollars are declining.
For many years the Agricultural Experiment Stations at land-grant colleges provided much of agriculture’s research needs. Because of the essentiality of agriculture to providing food and fiber to the nation, state and federal governments have provided much of the cost of agricultural research. Base funding has come through formula funds to land grant colleges providing faculty salaries, research equipment, and operation costs. Funding for specific research projects has come through competitive grants from government entities plus commercial sponsors such as agri-chemical companies and large food processors. These funds pay graduate students, travel, and other costs to perform specific research projects. However, government is disinvesting in agricultural research. Therefore, for applied research to continue it is imperative that other sources of research funding be identified.
In many states farmers and ranchers provide additional research support via state marketing orders that are sometimes called “check-offs.” Marketing orders are self-imposed assessments based on sales that growers pay for the purpose of supporting research, education and/or generic promotion. Decisions about how funds generated from the market order are spent are vested in a grower board. Grower boards decide research, education and promotion priorities and allocate funding accordingly.
Over the past year some leading Utah small grain and oilseed producers have been discussing the possibility of establishing a market order and board to generate research funds to support their businesses. Commissioner Blackham of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, graciously appointed a committee to explore the possibility further and to draft potential legislative language. In order for a market order for small grain and oilseed crops to be established a referendum must be held and at least 50% of voting growers must cast ballots in favor of the market order before it could be established. Details regarding the proposed market order will be sent to Utah growers along with a ballot.
One example of needed research, of the many that could be provided, is the critical need to stay ahead of small grain disease epidemics. Our wheat breeders remind us that new varieties, developed at Utah State University, keep us ahead of the constant threat of a dwarf buntdisaster. Dwarf bunt constantly mutates to infect newer varieties. Varieties developed only a few years ago are completely wiped-out in current variety test plots due to dwarf bunt, while new varieties of wheat are resistant to dwarf bunt and other diseases such as stripe rust. The only economical solution for dwarf bunt protection is to have an ongoing, thriving wheat breeding program for our specific area that provides new varieties resistant to current races of dwarf bunt. Other examples include the needed agronomic research on tillage, fertilizer, pest management, and soil management.
Market orders represent growers solving their own problems and controlling their own research agenda rather than relying on government to “solve” their problems. Market orders provide a strong voice for growers into the research agenda of land grant colleges such as USU. When growers have money to put on the table they get a voice at that table. Research funding increases the likelihood that faculty positions that support applied agricultural needs will be refilled when vacancies occur. Grower provided funding leverages government funding and creates opportunities for cost sharing with other states and via federal competitive grants.
Other western states including Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Montana have market orders for wheat and other agronomic crops. Growers in these states have seen the benefit of supporting research that provides innovation for their industries.
Over the next year a grower education campaign will be conducted. We hope small grain and oilseed growers will engage in the process, learn about the benefits and potential costs of a market order, and vote accordingly.