Alberta commissions a model for cooperation and shared management

There is constant talk about farmer-led commodity groups joining together to increase efficiencies. The farm groups in Manitoba are working on it, the Grain Farmers of Ontario have done something about it, and now so have the commissions for Alberta Barley (ABC) and Alberta Wheat (AWC).

Alberta Barley has been hosting the Barley Summit in Banff for a few years, but this year it became the Prairie Cereals Summit (PCS), partially a result of the integration of the two commissions. I caught up with Tom Steve, general manager of both Alberta Barley and Alberta Wheat, at the summit and we talked about how the integration of the two commissions is coming along.

When Alberta Barley found itself looking for a new general manager last year they approached Steve, who was general manager of Alberta Wheat at the time. They were already sharing some staff and office space with the AWC so having Steve step in as interim manager was the obvious move.

Steve outlines how things began, “It started in September of 2017 on an interim pilot basis if you will. And then at the end of January 2018 the two boards of Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley approved a plan that we developed to fully integrate the management teams and the staff, for that matter.”

“We worked through the spring, and then in June of this year we became a single management team, Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley. We combined separate departments, people that were in some cases working on the same things, into a single group and it has worked extremely well,”  he says. Steve anticipates that they will save $350,000 per year in salaries alone.

The interesting thing about this move is that the two commissions are gaining efficiencies while maintaining the farmers’ voices in the organization. They still have representation from each district for each commodity, and each commission still has its own board meeting. The one general manager answers to two boards, essentially.

Steve says that answering to two boards can get a bit complicated but it works, in part because, “We have two boards which are very compatible, so that’s been a bonus. It does put a little bit extra strain on staff to be able to be putting together agendas and logistics for board meetings and in some cases the subject matter is very similar, but it’s certainly manageable.”

It will be very interesting to see how this goes along and if it does provide a model for other commissions to follow.

Listen to the entire interview with Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley commissions, conducted at the Prairie Cereals Summit at Banff, Alta., below. 

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