Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association considers bylaw changes

Three of the association’s six director positions are also up for election

Two proposed bylaw changes will be considered at the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association (MWBGA) annual meeting Feb. 11, 2016 during the Crop Connect conference at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg.

One bylaw deals with checkoffs and the other with director elections, association executive director Brent VanKoughnet said in an interview Nov. 12.

Information explaining the proposed changes will be sent to members before the meeting.

Elections will also be held for three of the six director positions during the meeting.

The checkoff bylaw is required because the 48-cent-per-tonne levy on western Canadian wheat, introduced by the federal government Aug. 1, 2012 when the Canadian Wheat Board lost its sales monopoly, ends July 31, 2017.

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Under the proposal the MWBGA would collect the 48-cent checkoff, along with its own 52-cent-a-tonne checkoff on spring wheat. (Winter Cereals Manitoba collects a checkoff on winter wheat.) The total amount of money collected — $1 a tonne — would remain the same, but there would be one checkoff instead of two and the MWBGA would administer all the revenue.

Checkoff changes

The 48-cent checkoff was set to expire with the expectation provincial wheat commodity organizations would take it over once established. However, in the interim funding for varietal development managed by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) and market development through the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), was needed.

There’s also a federal checkoff of 56 cents a tonne for barley, with a portion going to WGRF and Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre.

The barley checkoff also ends July 31, 2017 and the MWBGA proposes to collect it too.

“We want to be well out in front of this to be able to communicate to members and the community at large so they understand and we can make other changes, including a regulatory change with our provincial government,” VanKoughnet said.

The MWBGA was created Jan. 1, 2013 and began collecting a refundable 52- and 50-cent-a-tonne checkoff on spring wheat and barley Feb. 1, 2014. It held its first annual meeting Feb. 18, 2015 in Winnipeg.

Getting the most out of farmers’ contributions is the MWBGA’s goal, chair and Reston farmer Fred Greig wrote in the association’s fall newsletter. He said the group proposes to allocate 70 per cent of its budget to research.

Another goal is keeping administration costs below 15 per cent of the total budget.

Directors’ elections

The other proposed bylaw change, if approved, would allow members who cannot attend the annual meeting, to vote in director elections by casting an advance ballot, which could be either mailed or sent electronically — details haven’t been worked out yet. Elections would still occur during the annual meeting with advance votes counted then, VanKoughnet said.

Last year, some MWBGA members complained it isn’t practical for all members to attend the annual meeting.

High postage costs would make an all mail-in election expensive. If a member requests an advance ballot it’s likely he or she will vote and return it.

“Our thinking is we don’t have any difficulty with the costs for those who wish to be engaged,” VanKoughnet said. “People struggle when you incur a cost for a large group that has no interest in being engaged.”

If the voting bylaw change is approved, the deadline for nominating directors will be set before the annual meeting to accommodate advance voting, VanKoughnet said.

The bylaw might also propose directors’ terms be set to four years instead of the current two. That way, half the board will be up for election every two years instead of every year, he added.

If the proposed changes are approved they would take effect in 2017. Members who want to participate in the 2016 election must attend the annual meeting to vote.

The positions held by Greig, Grant Dyck and Ray Askin of Portage la Prairie are up for election. Greig is standing for re-election, while Dyck and Askin are stepping down.

Nominations

The MWBGA is calling for nominations for directors and will be accepted up to and including at the annual meeting.

Members will also be updated on the association’s research plans, VanKoughnet said. The MWBGA has pledged $1.6 million for 13 new research projects to begin in 2016 and continue over the next two to four years, he said.

The MWBGA has taken its research proposals to researchers and is waiting for a response.

“I think we have to drive projects and engage researchers in the areas we think that work needs to be done,” VanKoughnet said.

The MWBGA also wants to work with sister associations in the West on research.

“Wheat breeding is a complex and costly endeavour,” he said. “For any of us to attempt that on our own would be foolish.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

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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