The idea that Manitoba’s commodity organizations need to work more closely together to provide more value to members — possibly going as far as merging — was formally introduced and discussed recently at CropConnect.
“All these organizations, particularly in Manitoba, have basically the same membership, doing very similar projects, with the same money, going after the same things. There’s a lot of opportunity for synergy there,” says Kelly Dobson, a business leadership consultant and Fairfax, Manitoba-area farmer.
Dobson has been hired by several provincial commodity associations to facilitate this conversation and assess opportunities for “strengthening member value.” As part of that, he’s interviewed and met with board chairs and representatives from each of the associations. He’s now seeking feedback from producers before submitting a report summarizing his findings.
– MB Wheat & Barley Growers
– MB Canola Growers
– MB Pulse & Soybean Growers
– MB Corn Growers
– MB Flax Growers
– Nat’l Sunflower Association of Canada
– Winter Cereals MB
– MB Oat Growers
One of the big questions to be answered is ‘what does this collaboration/merger look like?’ Does it involve maintaining the status quo with occasional partnerships or should Manitoba crop associations go the way of Ontario’s and move under a Manitoba version of the Grain Farmers of Ontario umbrella? (GFO’s CEO Barry Senft met last June with Manitoba crop association reps to discuss how GFO works.)
“If you really want to make change, you really are talking about doing things differently,” says Dobson. “There’s working together in partnership from time to time and then there’s something that’s more strategic and more visionary, that can start looking at overarching strategies for research and market development for an entire group of Manitoba farmers.”
He suggests that’s already happening with the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association and Manitoba Corn Growers Association hiring a joint general manager.
“That’s not collaborating. When you’re moving governance or management together, that’s on the curve of merger,” notes Dobson.
While the wheat and barley and corn groups have already moved in this direction, some are also pushing for change (eg. MB Pulse & Soybean Growers), others (ahem, canola) are largely comfortable with where they’re at. It will be up to the individual commodity organizations to choose how they respond to Dobson’s report.
Manitoba farmers looking to submit their views can contact Dobson at [email protected] or use the hashtag #strongfarms on Twitter.