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Commodity groups exploring merger

For now Manitoba’s canola, winter cereal and oat producer associations have opted to remain on their own

Five Manitoba commodity groups have signed a deal to spend the next year working towards a merger.

The Manitoba Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers Association (MPSG), Manitoba Flax Growers Association (MFGA), National Sunflower Association of Canada (NSAC) and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Association (MWBGA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that took effect May 1 and runs until April 30, 2018.

“The MOU is a more formalized approach to going forward to maximizing profitability and sustainability for Manitoba farmers,” Pam de Rocquigny, who was recently hired as general manager of both the MWBGA and MCGA, said in an interview May 3. “We all recognize that we have a common grower base and we all have similar organization activities, so where can we find those efficiencies so we provide more value to our membership and to our Manitoba farmers as well?”

One thing the groups aren’t anticipating are reduced farmer checkoffs, but rather that more of those funds will go towards research and market development, de Rocquiny said. She also stressed nothing is certain yet.

“We don’t have any predetermination of what this will look like at the end of the process. I know there will be some hesitancy with some of the membership with the term ‘merger,’ she said.

She also promised the groups would have detailed member consultation before anything happens.

All five of the Manitoba commodity groups, except for the flax growers, are headquartered in the same office in Carman.

The Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA), one of the original associations in collaboration talks that began in 2014, didn’t sign the MOU, but applauded the move and will monitor the process, it said in a news release.

The MCGA already works closely with sister organizations in the other Prairie provinces, nationally through the Canadian Canola Growers Association and the overall canola value chain through the Canola Council of Canada.

Winter Cereals Manitoba (WCM) and Manitoba Oat Growers Association (MOGA), which also participated in the talks, will stay on their own for now too.

WCM is a “lean” organization, which in co-operation with the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission is one of the groups which makes up Winter Cereals Canada, its chair Doug Martin said in an interview.

“It seems to be working pretty well without a lot of cost,” Martin said. “But we may look at it again sometime in the future.”

Manitoba oat growers are likewise linked to oat organizations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as the Prairie Oat Growers Association, MOGA chair Ray Mazinke, said in an interview. The oat associations also share the same executive director.

“We will be watching how it goes,” Mazinke said. “Things change and who knows, we might look at things differently down the road.”

By June the five groups that signed the MOU hope to have hired an adviser to assist a working group develop a merger plan.

By year’s end there should be a report on how to proceed. Details will be shared with members during the annual CropConnect conference in February.

The groups are open to other like-minded organizations joining them, but not until after the current MOU expires, de Rocquigny said.

There are lots of questions, including how a new merged organization would be governed and how it would raise money. All the groups have legislated refundable checkoffs. Changes to that would require the approval of the Manitoba government, de Rocquigny said.

Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler supports a merger.

“Our province’s commodity groups face numerous pressures to effectively represent and advocate on behalf of producers in Manitoba,” Eichler said in an email May 4. “Our government supports this MOU as a means of accomplishing their mandate and better serving Manitoba’s ag sector. I look forward to continuing a strong working relationship with all commodity groups as we ensure their voices are heard and priorities are considered by our government.”

The Keystone Agricultural Producers also supports the groups, president Dan Mazier said in an interview.

“The intent is to do the best with the dollars they have,” he said. “I can’t see any drawbacks to that.”

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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