Five Manitoba crop commodity groups have released a report detailing their plan to create one overarching association.
The Dec. 14 report is full of details on how they will form one association by Aug. 1, 2019 — if members approve it at their annual meetings in February 2019.
But right now the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers, Manitoba Flax Growers, the National Sunflower Association of Canada and Manitoba Corn Growers and Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers want their respective 8,000 members to respond to the proposal via email ([email protected]) or by contacting association directors.
They also want farmers to attend presentations in January and to provide input during their annual meetings February 14 and 15 at the CropConnect meeting in Winnipeg.
“Commodity groups need to be farmer driven,” Manitoba Corn Growers Association president Myron Krahn said in a news release. “This report shows how amalgamating would not only maintain our connection to farmers from across Manitoba, but also how it would improve it. From better research capability to a greater potential to leverage research investments, we’ll have more impact as an amalgamated group. Together we can be better.”
The amalgamation report says the same mandate to focus on research, agronomy and market development would remain.
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The organization would be governed by a farmer board of 15 directors, elected at large, representing all farmers growing crops represented by the five organizations, Fred Greig, chair of the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, said in a Dec. 14 interview.
The headquarters will likely be in Carman where all the groups, except flax, already work in a building owned by the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, he said.
To ensure grassroots farmer involvement the new organization will hold annual regional farmer meetings.
Consultant Rob Hannam of Synthesis Agri-Food Network will present the merger proposal at the following locations:
- St. Jean Farm Days, Jan. 10, 1 p.m.
- Dauphin, Jan. 11, 1 p.m.
- Stonewall, Jan. 12, 10 a.m.
- Brandon Ag Days, Jan. 16, 3 p.m.
If farmers generally support merging, the steering committee will appoint an inaugural board of directors, the report says.
That board will develop the new, not-for-profit corporation and ask the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council to grant it authority to collect levies.
A final vote will be held at each of the five organizations’ annual meetings in February 2019, or at a special meeting of members, the report says.
“The goal, subject to approval by the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council (MFPMC) and Manitoba Agriculture, is that the regulation designating the new organization as the representative organization of producers of the named crops will be effective on August 1, 2019,” the report says.
The report lists these benefits:
- Improved research and agronomy;
- Increased return on research investments by combining resources, systems and staff;
- Improved ability to leverage research investments with industry and government funding;
- Greater ability to support crop diversity and sustainable crop rotations;
- A stronger voice for Manitoba farmer members representing 60 per cent of the field crops produced by more than 8,000 farmers;
- More unified and co-ordinated communications to grower members due to reduced overlap;
- Greater ability to attract and develop highly skilled team members to work on behalf of farmers;
- More dedicated, independent specialists to support farmers;
- Increased support to farmer directors by having more specialized resources;
- Support to Manitoba farmers to improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms; and
- Opportunity for staff growth and professional development.
The groups agreed electing directors, at large, to represent all farmers who grow crops included in the new organization’s mandate, was the most efficient, Greig said.
Should one or more organization decide not to merge, those that want to can do so, the report says.
Others will be able to join the new organization in the future.
The checkoff amounts for each crop will remain the same, Greig said. However, funds collected will not be allocated strictly by crop.
“We’re hoping if it’s the right research it gets done, and not go into this thinking that we’re all going to five individual organizations just operating under one office, because that really defeats the purpose,” Greig said. “We need to be thinking what’s best for Manitoba producers.”
The new organization will not advocate on issues that are directly detrimental to other crop types, and will not promote one crop directly in opposition to the other, the report says.
Some farmers worry merging will reduce their voice.
Many organizations are struggling to get directors, especially as the farm population declines, Greig said in response. Many directors are also overworked, he added.
“We are talking about moving to a governance board instead of a hands-on working board,” he said.
The path to merger began two years ago, when the five groups, which were already co-operating, plus the Manitoba Canola Growers and Manitoba Oat Growers associations, agreed to explore the idea further.
The canola and oat growers opted out of the process, but the rest signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that took effect May 1 to investigate merging further.
There are many advantages, but risks too, Hannam said in an interview Dec. 16.
“We tried to be up front with those in the report too. Farmers make decisions about risk every day so it shouldn’t scare them off. They can see both sides of this and they can tell their boards if they should continue going or not.
“I see a lot of potential here and I hope that members see that as well, but it’s really up to them.”