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Grain Farmers of Ontario an example of commodity group merger

The group began by merging corn, soybeans and wheat into a single association, but has since added barley and oats

One of the clearest examples of what merged farm groups might look like is the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO).

It began operations Jan. 1, 2010 after Ontario corn, soybean and wheat farmers voted strongly to merge their individual commodity groups, GFO chief executive officer Barry Senft, said May 4.

In 2015 Ontario barley and oat farmers, who didn’t have a commodity group, voted to join.

There’s no question the merger has given Ontario farmers a bigger bang for their buck, Senft said.

“We don’t get calls, or people standing up at meetings, wishing for the good old days under the legacy groups,” he said.

“I might be biased, but it can be done and done more efficiently for farmer-members.

“Commodity prices aren’t where they were four or five years ago so the dollars have to stretch. And the issues are getting more complex. I just think it makes sense to be working together on some of these issues.”

Many issues affect all grain farmers, not one specific crop, Senft added.

GFO’s governance is based on electing delegates from 15 districts across Ontario. Each district is allowed a minimum of eight delegates. Additional delegates are allocated using a formula that accounts for local crop choice and planting levels.

Each district has a member sitting on the GFO’s board.

The creation of GFO was driven by grassroots farmers and that appears to be the case in Manitoba, Senft said.

There are other similarities, including the Ontario corn, soybean and wheat groups shared an office before merging.

“I think you want to start with a new vision for the organization that recognizes the priorities of the legacy organizations, but doesn’t dwell on it,” Senft said.

“There’s a lot of hard work discussing what the vision is and what people would like to achieve. You don’t get it done quickly, but as long as it’s moving forward I think that’s the positive of it.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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