There will be three options for voting in Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association (MWBGA) director elections: an advance mail-in ballot, an advance electronic ballot or voting at the association’s annual meeting.
Members voted in favour of a bylaw containing the changes Feb. 11 at the MWBGA’s annual meeting in Winnipeg during Crop Connect.
“This is a great turnout, but it’s still not 8,000 people,” MWBGA chair Fred Greig said, referring to the number of association members while the bylaw was discussed. “So we’re trying to engage on a cost-effective basis.”
The bylaw will add an eighth director and change directors’ terms to four years. Elections will also be staggered. Starting in 2018, four director positions will be up for election and two years later three and so on.
The MWBGA was formed two years ago. To save money and to encourage participation in annual meetings interim directors opted for elections at the MWBGA’s annual meeting. A number of farmers complained that decision limited participation.
Directors Dean Harder of Lowe Farm and Grant Dyck of Niverville were asked to find alternatives, which led to the bylaw.
The MWBGA will mail a meeting notice to its members who can then request a mail-in or electronic ballot by letter, telephone or email, or vote during the annual meeting, Harder said.
It will be cheaper than mailing all members a mail-in ballot and help verify the membership, he added.
The association will record who received advance ballots to prevent members from vot ing again at the annual meeting. All ballots will be counted at the annual meeting.
Members also voted in favour of a resolution to allow the MWBGA’s directors to take responsibility for Manitoba’s share of the Transitional Western Canadian deduction that ends July 31, 2017.
The checkoff was introduced by the previous federal government to continue farmer funding for the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and Canadian Malt Barley Technical Institute (CMBTI) that ended with the Canadian Wheat Board’s demise.
Farmers will see no difference in the amount checked off, MWBGA director Drew Baker of Beausejour said. The wheat checkoff will remain $1 a tonne — 48 cents for Cigi and research and 52 cents to fund the MWBGA.
The barley checkoff stays at $1.06 a tonne — 56 cents for CMBTI and research and 50 cents for the MWBGA.
“The changes are going to increase efficiency and effectiveness with no new levy or checkoff,” Baker said. “That’s important to note that there won’t be any more money coming out of your pockets coming to us. It strengthens the producer’s voice through more direct representation. We’re going to have control of that money.”
The MWBGA is committed to continuing the same level of funding for Cigi and CMBTI, Greig said, even though Cigi is short of money.
“They (Cigi) are getting more creative about their approach,” he said.
The MWBGA’s goal is to spend 70 per cent of its checkoff revenue on research, 15 per cent on market development and 15 per cent on administration, Greig said. To save money the MWBGA has hired staff under contract, but expects to hire full-time staff as the workload increases.
The MWBGA wants to establish a reserve research fund able to fund one year of research in case a poor crop results in a drop in revenue.
The MWBGA will spend $1.6 million on research over the next four years, but has leveraged it through government funding to $12.7 million.
The MWBGA is a member of Cereals Canada and the Barley Council of Canada, which represent the whole value chain, Greig said.
“I believe we are receiving great value for our membership and hope all provinces will unite under these organizations,” he said. “Trade missions, railroad level of service are a couple of examples of their work on our behalf.”
Farmers and wheat marketers each contribute 37.5 per cent of Cereal Canada’s funding and hold the same percentage of directors’ positions. Six farmers, six grain marketers and four life science company officials make up the board.
Three of the farmer representatives are from Alberta, plus one each from Manitoba and Ontario.
MWBGA director Robert Misko of Roblin who sits on the Cereals Canada board said it doesn’t seek out contentious issues, focusing on things that bring value to the whole industry.
Because powerful grain company officials sit on the board, farmers get a chance to influence them, said Minto-farmer David Rourke who formerly represented the MWBGA on Cereals Canada. A “dissent clause,” allows farmers to disagree with a Cereals Canada position publicly.
Ian Robson of Deleau urged caution, noting sometimes farmers and grain buyers have different interests.
“We need to be wary of that a little bit,” he said.
Two new directors and an incumbent were acclaimed at the meeting. The incumbent was chair Fred Greig of Reston.
The newcomers were Dylan Wiebe, of Altona and Justin Dutchyshen of Gilbert Plains.
Wiebe began his agricultural career at 14 working for Altona Farm Service. He started farming with his uncle and grandfather and earned an agriculture diploma from the University of Manitoba. In 2014 Wiebe started LD Seeds with his uncle.
Dutchyshen, a fifth-generation farmer, raises grain and cattle with his parents and wife. He also has a diploma in agriculture and sits on the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers board.
Dutchyshen said important issues for the association include farmers’ right to save seed, grain transportation, research, plant breeding and single-desk marketing. The wheat board is a touchy subject, he said, but most farmers agree they haven’t been properly compensated by the federal government for the disposal of the wheat board’s assets.
Ray Askin of Portage la Prairie and Grant Dyck retired from the board.