It’s a sensitive topic for some, and so it’s being broached lightly, but several Manitoba crop associations have participated in meetings looking at how they could collaborate, or even (dare it be said out loud) merge.
The subject was brought to public light at the recent Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) annual meeting in Winnipeg. A resolution calling on KAP to support the status quo and oppose amalgamation of commodity groups was introduced and discussed, but ultimately defeated, on Thursday.
A more formal introduction and discussion about opportunities for crop associations to work together is planned for the CropConnect conference in Winnipeg in mid-February.
There are several factors that have spurred the conversations between commodity group directors, including the ever-present pressure to maximize value for check-off dollars collected from farmers and decreased participation on farm group boards. Some of the crop associations are also facing turnover in their general manager/executive director positions in the next few years.
Concerns expressed at the KAP meeting included the possibility a unified farm group could create a “checkoff refund central,” making it too easy for farmers to request refunds. Several farmers said it would enable “free-riders” if the checkoff isn’t mandatory and non-refundable. In some cases, there’s concern the push to merge is coming from grain companies who don’t have farmers’ best interests in mind.
One step toward more collaboration was already announced earlier this week, with the Manitoba Corn Growers Association and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association sharing the news that they’ve hired a joint general manager who will lead the staff for both check-off funded organizations.
So does this mean we’re going to see the creation of Grain Farmers of Manitoba, similar to Grain Farmers of Ontario to the east? Or will it mean more shared office space and staff? Or maybe no change at all? That all appears to be up for discussion right now.
CropConnect — itself an example of crop association collaboration — involves the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers Association, National Sunflower Association of Canada, Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Seed Growers Association, Manitoba Oat Growers Association, Manitoba Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Flax Growers Association and Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.
The annual general meetings for all these organizations will be held during the conference on February 15 and 16, and it’s expected the topic of collaboration, and possibly amalgamation, will be discussed at many of them.
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