Many Manitobans are still suffering in the wake of last year’s flood, and so is the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP).
The general farm organization projects a $4,600 loss in its 2012 budget largely due to a drop in memberships. But long-standing problems with its funding checkoff aren’t helping.
As of March 31, KAP had 2,177 members, down almost 24 per cent from the same time last year.
“It makes complete sense when you consider 25 per cent of farmland wasn’t seeded last year,” KAP president Doug Chorney said on the sidelines of KAP’s General Council meeting April 10.
So far around 1,000 farmers that were paid-up KAP members last year haven’t contributed a dime in checkoff this year, Chorney said. He suspects most don’t have any grain to sell because excessive moisture prevented them from seeding last year or drowned what they did seed.
KAP is banking on 3,500 paid-up members this year, down from almost 4,200 in 2011.
“There are still a lot of companies not deducting (KAP’s checkoff),” KAP general manager Yvonne Rideout said.
KAP vice-president Weldon Newton declined to name them, but Viterra isn’t one of them. Rideout said she wonders if Glencore will be as diligent when it takes over Viterra.
Chorney said some companies have difficulty with KAP’s checkoff because it’s capped at $150 a year. The checkoff would be easier to administer if companies didn’t have to keep track of how much has been collected.
Meanwhile, KAP continues to press the Manitoba government to provide KAP with stable funding in some other form. During last year’s provincial election then agriculture minister Stan Struthers promised to do just that. Chorney said the current minister, Ron Kostyshyn said he would soon inform KAP whether changes will be introduced.
Alternatives to a checkoff include making membership in a farm organization a requirement to be eligible for farm plates, purple fuel or farm programs, Chorney said.
Despite being tight on funding KAP delegates passed a resolution to boost KAP’s president and two vice-presidents’ per diems and honorariums.
Starbuck farmer Reg Dyck said KAP’s leaders need to be better compensated for all the work they do for Manitoba farmers. The past months have been especially hectic with the flood and changes to the Canadian Wheat Board, he said.
Starting May 1 the president’s per diem will be $275, up from $225 and the honorarium will go to $15,000 a year, up from $12,000.
Vice-presidents will get $225 per diem, up from $200 and their honoraria will be $4,500, instead $3,500.
Rideout reported KAP is now fully staffed with the recent hiring of Val Ominski as communications co-ordinator. Interim communications co-ordinator Wanda McFayden will continue to work part time.
KAP’s other employees are James Battershill, policy analyst, Alanna Gray, administrative co-ordinator and research assistant and financial co-ordinator Kathy Ulasy.
High grain prices and early seeding have farmers more optimistic than ever, Chorney said as he opened the meeting.
“I’m really looking forward to Manitoba farmers having a really good crop this year and recovering some of the big losses from last year.”