Comment: Let’s get it right

Will individual commodity issues be sidelined by new organization?

The Manitoba Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Manitoba Flax Growers Association, National Sunflower Association, Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association and Winter Cereals Manitoba are involved in a proposed amalgamation to become one large entity and represent all of these crops.

These organizations have improved farming practices and returns to growers for each of their respected crops. Manitoba Corn is the oldest continuous farm organization in Manitoba at 50 years, while the other organizations are quite young in comparison.

There is a very good reason commodity-specific farm organizations exist. Countries have become more protectionist about world trade over the last few years. Many of today’s farmers will not have heard about the trade problems corn producers encountered 35 years ago.

The MCGA was able to collaborate with the Ontario Corn Producers Association (OCPA) and were able to convince the Government of Canada that the U.S. was unfairly subsidizing corn exports into Canada. This highly subsidized corn was lowering our prices by $1.05 per bushel.

In this province it was the members of the MCGA who decided to pursue a countervailing duty on U.S. corn imports into Canada and were successful.

MCGA and OCPA were able to represent corn growers without having to convince any other commodity group that their actions were absolutely necessary for continued corn production in Canada. We couldn’t survive, selling corn at those depressed prices. We had to defend ourselves not once but twice against these American subsidies.

If this amalgamation passes, the directors representing corn will not have a majority on the board of directors. It is conceivable that the directors representing corn will not be able to convince the majority of the new board to initiate trade action when these unfair subsidies happen again because it won’t directly affect the other crops. The U.S. will have highly subsidized corn again and it may happen soon with the trade actions we have witnessed in recent times.

Members must be in attendance to vote. It’s like no one wants to hear what any farmers have to say if they live outside of an hour’s drive. It is very unfortunate the committee doesn’t seem to care about how some growers have to travel hundreds of miles or how much it costs to travel to vote. It’s like having to cast your vote in Winnipeg in the next provincial election rather that in your own town.

What would the per cent of voters be for that? Farmers get lots of online surveys wanting to know what we think about everything in agriculture. Internet technology and online voting could have allowed everyone to indicate their choice. Mail-in ballots have even been used by other commodity organizations.

We better get this right! The status quo has worked very well.

It would be a real shame to go from having pretty good representation to a very large bureaucracy that doesn’t have grower support or lacks funding because of opting out. The next vote could happen with checkoff refunds.

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