Five like-minded commodity associations in Manitoba signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work towards merging into one organization to increase efficiencies and maximize profitability and sustainability for Manitoba farmers.
These five groups are 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).
The MOU represents a significant step forward following more than three years of talks surrounding how the above groups could better work together to maximize member value.
“The Board of Directors of the MWBGA and MCGA have taken a lead in showcasing how commodity groups can work together,” said Pam de Rocquigny, who recently became the general manager of both MWBGA and MCGA. “This MOU signals a more formalized relationship between all the involved commodity groups as we work together to explore new and innovate ways in how our organizations can improve efficiencies and deliver maximum value to our memberships.”
The commodity organizations are seeking the help of an advisor to help facilitate the process of taking their commitment to merge from infancy to fruition by facilitating the development of a work plan that includes timelines and consultation with members.
The group has no predetermination of what this common commodity organization will eventually look like. The group has expressed, unequivocally, that it will make sure the farmers from each commodity organization represents will have a strong, critical voice in shaping this merger.
“This is the first step in a long process,” said Jason Voth, chair of MPSG’s Board of Directors. “I am very pleased to hear that these groups are willing to work together. As a farmer, this makes sense. Good farming is about growing more than one crop. I represent one farm that grows multiple crops. This merger makes sense.”
While five grower organizations have signed the MOU, they are willing to allow other, like-minded commodity groups to join the merger talks, provided they have the same level of commitment to delivering value and increasing profitability among their farmer members. Interested organizations will have an opportunity to join this working group in April of 2018 after the first phase of this process has been completed.
From the MOU
“We share a common goal to improve the sustainability and profitability of farms in Manitoba,” reads the MOU. “Our intention is to develop a future working relationship that is efficient, effective and advantageous to our members. Our vision is to work for the next year to develop a plan for merging into a common commodity organization consisting of like-minded grower groups. We are entering into this process with no predetermination of what this common commodity organization will eventually look like.”
“If we go back, I think in the spring of 2014, managers and directors started talking about the idea of collaboration, and really that has gained momentum since that time frame,” said Pam de Rocquigny. “So we see things like the CropConnect Conference where there are multiple commodity groups within Manitoba that pull together and put on a premier conference held annually in February in Winnipeg. We see other things such as a joint hire between the Manitoba Corn Growers and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Associations.”
She said there are examples already in the past of where commodity groups have collaborated and have worked together, either sharing office space or human resources, those types of things. “So this is almost taking it to the next step in terms of okay now where can we really formalize things and move things forward, keeping in mind that there’s going to be questions along the way,” de Rocquigny. “There will be concerns along the way as well in terms of membership. Part of the process is to understand some of those questions and concerns and to address them and to try to answer some of those questions as well so that we can as organizations communicate and provide some answers hopefully for the membership that does have questions.”
The obvious question is with five groups and going back many years where all of them were really independent growers. In fact, some of those commodities didn’t exist at that time. Can we make this work so that all the commodities and all the growers representing those commodities can be represented fairly?
“Those are obviously some of the questions, and one of the questions that I think we’ll get is if we do go down that path throughout this process, then looking at merging as an option, what will that look like? I think that’s part of what that process is about is to understand some of those, understand them and then try to come up with a way to, I guess, either address it or provide solutions, too, I guess,” she said.