Seismic changes reverberating through the Manitoba pork industry have forced the province’s hog producer membership association into its biggest corporate restructuring in years.
The Manitoba Pork Council is cutting local districts, slashing the number of delegates and adopting a grassroots approach for electing them.
A massive loss of hog farmers and a desire for more direct involvement by the ones left are driving the changes, MPC’s annual meeting was told.
Delegates at the April 12 meeting voted overwhelmingly for the restructuring plan originally proposed at district meetings last fall.
A sharp reduction in the number of hog producers is a main force behind MPC’s restructuring plan, said general manager Andrew Dickson.
Many producers, battered by low prices, escalating costs and heavy debt loads, have left the industry over the last five years.
The number of Manitoba producers who pay marketing levies shrank from 848 in 2006 to 377 in 2010, according to MPC’s records. Statistics Canada puts the number of hog farmers in Manitoba at around 750. That includes those who sell pigs privately and do not have to pay levies.
Fewer producers means MPC’s current delegate structure is no longer as relevant as it once was, said Dickson.
The current structure concept made sense years ago when there were many small producers and it was impractical for them all to attend a meeting. It makes less sense today with only a few hundred producers remaining, Dickson said.
MORE DIRECTLY INVOLVED
Having fewer producers makes it possible for them to be more directly involved in the pork council’s business, he added.
The restructuring plan sees the number of geographic districts reduced from the current six districts to two: one east of the Red River and the other west of it.
Non-geographic districts stay the same. Those include two Hutterite Brethren districts and one district each for Maple Leaf Agri-Farms, Puratone Corporation and HyLife Ltd.
Producers elect two board directors from each of the two geographic districts through a mail-in ballot. Two directors at large from each district are elected by producers, making six directors directly chosen by farmers.
In all, the board will have 11 directors, the same as now.
Weanling exporters, who previously had their own district, will now be represented through the two geographical districts.
ELECTED BY PRODUCERS
The delegate body is reduced from 51 delegates to 22 so-called pork council advisers elected by producers at annual fall district meetings in the two geographic districts.
Director and adviser terms are for two years. Elections are staggered, with half elected every other year.
Currently, producer members elect delegates who in turn elect directors. Now each member will vote for a director.
The new structure is more grassroots in its approach toward involving producers, said Dickson.
“We’re essentially going to cut out part of that chain and make the relationship between the director and the member a closer one, because you’re going to rely on them to vote for you to be elected.”
Dickson said producers during last year’s consultations signalled they wanted a more direct say in the pork council’s affairs. Now they will have it, he said.
The Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council must approve the new structure. New directors will be elected in March 2012 but the process will not take full effect until after the 2012 annual meeting. Current delegates will keep their positions until Oct. 1, 2011.
Pork councils in other provinces have gone through similar exercises, Dickson said. Alberta reduced its number of districts and Ontario cut back its board of directors. In both cases, the loss of producers was a major reason for the rationalization.
Dickson expressed hope the exodus from the industry in Manitoba has bottomed out, now that market prices are recovering.
“We’re not in a growth phase but we’ve definitely stopped shrinking.” [email protected]
maketherelationship betweenthedirector andthemember acloserone.”
– ANDREW DICKSON, MPC