UPDATED AUGUST 2018

Proposal – Five Manitoba commodity organizations have investigated the possibility of amalgamating into one new organization to improve the sustainability and profitability of farms in Manitoba.
Consultation Period – The proposal will be communicated to members using email, news articles, newsletters and magazine articles. Members were consulted from December 2017 to February 2018 at five regional meetings, and at each of the five organizations’ Annual General Meetings (AGMs) during the 2018 CropConnect Conference taking place on February 14 & 15, 2018.

A farmer led steering committee of the four organizations—Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Flax Growers Association, National Sunflower Association of Canada, and Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association—will be creating an updated proposal for farmer members to consider. Watch for updates in the Fall 2018.

Four organization logo line-up

Manitoba Farmers: Get Involved – Have Your Say

Review the proposal and tell us what you think:

  • Contact the Board or staff of any of the five organizations
  • Attend a regional meeting or presentation in January 2018
  • Attend the AGM of your organization in February 2018
  • Email your comments directly to rob@mbcrops.agnition.ca

Background

The farmer Boards of the five organizations have been investigating this opportunity over the past 20 months. Several reports have been developed that looked at the benefits and potential risks of increased collaboration between various Manitoba commodity associations:

  • Common Challenges report, January 2016
  • Strengthening Member Value report, November 2016, February 2017

MOU MAY 2017

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the five organizations in May 2017 to begin exploring a potential merger. A Steering Committee made up of Board members and staff of the organizations has developed the following proposal with consulting support from Synthesis Agri-Food Network.

Proposal Highlights

Proposal: Five Manitoba commodity organizations have investigated the possibility to amalgamate into one new organization to improve the sustainability and profitability of farms in Manitoba.

Research Focus: The organization will continue to have the same focus and mandate of the existing organizations:

  • Research and Agronomy – Independent, farmer driven research and agronomy support
    • Research and Agronomy team will include more of a regional focus and representation
  • Market Development – Developing new markets and supporting existing markets

Board Governance: The organization will be governed by a farmer Board of 15 elected Directors who will represent all Manitoba farmers growing crops and who are currently represented by the five organizations included in the mandate of the new organization.

  • Board Term lengths will be set a maximum 3 terms of 3 years

Grassroots Farmer Involvement: The new organization will hold annual regional farmer meetings to ensure improved connections with farmer members.

  • The detailed plan will be prepared for farmer members to review fall 2018

Target Timeline:

Member Vote 2019 AGM: Members of each organization will vote on an amalgamation proposal resolution at their respective AGMs in February 2019.

Effective August 1, 2019: If approved by farmer members, the target date for implementation of the new organization will be August 1, 2019.

4

Commodity Organizations

5

Field Crops Represented

8000

Farmer Members

40

Percent of Manitoba Crop Acres Represented

55

Percent of Overlap in Membership from Farmers Growing More Than One Crop

Amalgamation Benefits

A combined organization will have MORE IMPACT and REDUCED OVERLAP than the current structure of five separate organizations.

Improved farmer-driven research & agronomy

  • Research and Agronomy Team
    • Develop a Regional agronomy program
    • More regional representation across the province (more in-touch with regional needs)
  • More efficient use of staff time and equipment
  • Improved ability to leverage government funding

Tackle challenges that are bigger than just one crop

  • Manitoba farmers grow more than just one crop
  • Some of the biggest challenges we face are not crop specific, such as:
    • Soil health / organic matter / compaction
    • Crop rotations / new crop options
    • Resistant weeds / insects / diseases, etc.
  • More of a whole-farm approach so we are better able to tackle these challenges

A stronger voice for Manitoba farmer members representing 60% of the field crops produced by 8000+ farmers

More unified and coordinated communications to grower members due to reduced overlap

A greater ability to attract and develop highly skilled team members to work on behalf of farmers

  • Overall staff level will remain the same but some positions can be realigned to reduce any overlap
  • Increased support to farmer Directors by having more specialized resources in place for added support
  • Reduced risk of relying on a few staff (more of a team approach, succession plan / back-up plan)
  • Provide more opportunity for staff growth and professional development within the new organization

Guiding Principles

The following are guiding principles for the new combined organization:

  • Directors will represent all farmer members who grow crops included in the mandate of the new organization (no specific crop representatives on the Board).
  • Research investment for each crop will not be set or limited by the check-off revenue generated by the specific crop so that the Board has some flexibility. Research investments are set based on an annual review of the research priorities and project proposals, and through strategic planning by the Board of Directors of the new organization. Research projects that meet strategic objectives and show the most benefit for farmers will be funded.
  • The new organization will serve as a resource for crop diversity and sustainable crop rotations, which are key for profitable and sustainable agriculture in Manitoba.
  • The design of the new organization will be structured so that other research-focused field crop organizations or new crop types could join in the future.

Operations Structure

The new organization will continue to have the same mandate and focus as the current organizations:

Legal Process and Timeline

The legal process will be:

  • Create the new not for profit organization (newco)
  • Each of the five organizations would then enter into an amalgamation agreement to amalgamate that organization into the new one (newco)

The proposed timeline for the merger process is as follows:

  • Following the consultation period (December 2017 to February 2018), the Board of Directors of the five organizations will each decide how to proceed based on member feedback on the proposal.
  • If there is a generally positive response, the Steering Committee will move forward to develop detailed plans including the Amalgamation Agreement, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Draft budget, organization chart and detailed plans for the research and agronomy team.
  • An inaugural Board of Directors will be appointed from the five organizations and draft the petition for submission to the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council to request the new organization have the authority to collect levy included in the mandate of the new organization.
    • Regional meetings will be held in fall 2018 to share the detailed plans with farmer members.
  • A final vote of farmer members will be held at the AGM of each organization in February 2019, or at a Special Meeting of members.
  • If the resolution is passed by farmer members and the Government agrees to designate the new organization as the representative organization for the producers of the crops set out in the Petition, each of the five existing organizations will begin the process to file the Article of Amalgamation. Articles of Amalgamation between that organization and the new not-for-profit organization will be filed with a request for an effective date of August 1, 2019.
  • The target, subject to approval by the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council (MFPMC) and Manitoba Agriculture, is that the regulation designating the new organization as the representative organization of producers of the named crops will be effective on August 1, 2019.

We will take the time needed to do it right.

Governance Structure

The Steering Committee did consider several options, including setting up districts, before deciding on these recommendations. The steering committee concluded a governance structure for the new organization structured as follows:

  • Board of 15 Farmer Directors
    • Elected by farmer members from across Manitoba
    • Three-year terms for board members (maximum three terms per director)
  • Directors will represent all farmers who grow these crops within the mandate of the organization (not specific crop representatives for individual crops)
  • Committees of the Board
    • Executive Committee
    • Governance Committee
    • Finance / Audit Committee
    • Research Committee
    • Ad hoc committees can be added as necessary, but will not be specified in the bylaws
  • Grassroots Farmer Advisory Groups: The new organization will hold annual regional farmer meetings or crop specific advisory groups to improve feedback with farmer members across the province.

New Board of Directors

The inaugural Board of Directors for the new organization will be appointed from the existing five Boards (three Directors from each of the five organizations for 15 Directors total). Once the organization is formed and the current organizations are legally amalgamated, then Directors will be elected by farmer members over the next three years at the new organization`s AGM.

Key Questions

The following are a few questions that were considered by the Steering Committee:

What will change?

  • Farmers will get more return for their levy because of improved efficiency and capabilities of the merged organization.
  • There will be reduced overlap compared to the current structure.
  • The amalgamation also creates the opportunity to realign the organization structure and have more specialized staff to provide support to the organization and better serve the farmer members.
  • Regional advisory meetings will be held to provide the opportunity for more grassroots farmer input.

Will an amalgamation mean higher administration costs to run the organization?

  • No. Administration costs will not increase. We anticipate administrative functions will become more efficient under one organization, allowing for an increase in the levy dollars collected to be invested in research and market development activities that benefit Manitoba producers.

Will the levy amount change?

  • No. The levy amount deducted will not change when this new organization is established. The new Board of Directors will evaluate this on a regular basis and could recommend changes in the future if necessary.

What if I only grow 2-3 of these crops? How will this impact me?

  • Research and market development investments will continue for all crops involved, but the impact of the organization will be improved because the focus will consider the sustainability and profitability of crop diversity and crop rotations and not single crops (i.e., a whole-farm approach).

Will my levy dollars fund research and market development in crops that I am not growing now?

  • Possibly. A portion of the levy may go toward research projects on new crop types or multi-crop projects, such as crop rotation work, so that Manitoba farmers will continue to have many viable crop options in the future.

How will decisions on research investment for each crop be made?

  • Research investments are set based on an annual review of the strategic goals and research priorities set by the Board of Directors and the Research Committee. The research projects that result in demonstrated benefits for farmers will be funded.

Can other crops be added in the future?

  • Yes. The design of a new organization will be structured so that other research-focused field crop organizations or new crop types could join in the future.
  • The new organization will be in a better position to deal with multi-commodity issues such as soil erosion, herbicide resistance, nutrient management and crop rotation, which will benefit all farmer members.

What if one of the organizations withdraws from the process or votes not in favour of the resolution at the 2019 AGM?

  • If one or more of the five organizations decide not to proceed with the amalgamation at some point in the process, the remaining organizations can continue with the amalgamation if supported by their respective members. Collaborations already in place, such as shared office space and shared staff positions, can remain and continue.

How will a Board of 15 farmer Directors to do the work of what is currently 41 farmer Directors for the five organizations?

  • Currently, each of the five organizations has differing levels of involvement from their Board members. Some Boards members are very involved in meetings with external committees or national groups. Many current Board members are only involved at the individual Board level. By amalgamating, it creates the opportunity for more specialized staff to provide more support to operate the organization. Farmer Board members will be more focused on governance, overseeing and directing the organization. The staff team can “fill in” for Directors in some cases, which will reduce the workload on farmer Directors somewhat. Based on this, we expect the workload to be similar in the new organization assuming that all 15 Directors are equally involved.

Did the Steering Commitee consider other ideas/concepts of collaboration, outside of merging/amalgamation?

  • There are already many examples of collaborative initiatives currently underway between the five organizations. However, as the concept was explored by the Steering Committee, it was determined amalgamation of the five organizations provides benefits such as reduced overlap in support functions (i.e., financial reporting and staff management).

How will the Directors be knowledgeable in all crops they represent?

  • In Manitoba, farmers grow multiple crops on their farm with the number varying year to year. This is based on factors such as market signals, pricing and rotational considerations. Therefore, farmers typically have a strong knowledge base on the production and marketing of many crop types that will be beneficial in a Director position.
  • In addition, the organization will have increased staff capability and specialists available to support the farmer Directors in their duties.

Some of the current associations have relationships with national organizations. Will this change?

  • No. The Directors of the new organization will consider the value of being members of provincial and national organizations. For example, if the new organization includes soybeans and the new organization finds value in belonging to Soy Canada, the new organization could continue to be involved.

Will the reduction in commodity groups lessen, or take away, the voice of farmers, both provincially and nationally?

  • We have seen great things accomplished when farmers work together and present a unified voice on common issues. With a unified and cohesive message, the voice of farmers in Manitoba will be stronger.
  • When an issue arises that is crop-specific, the new organization will continue to be a voice for those farmers who are currently growing that specific crop.
  • The Steering Committee believes we are stronger together and can make members’ levy dollars go farther. However, there is also a recognition that as a larger organization may require compromise.

The final vote will occur at the 2019 AGM. What happens if I can’t attend in-person? Can I still vote on each proposed Amalgamation Agreement?

  • No. Legal Counsel obtained by the Steering Committee has indicated that, for some of the organizations, members must vote at a member’s meeting in-person.

For the new organization, if a farmer requests a levy refund for one crop type but wants to leave the remaining check-off dollars with the organization, would that farmer be a member of good standing?

  • No. As with any of the current associations, requesting a refund in part or in whole of the levy contributed, removes that farmer from the organization’s membership.

Are there any others risks?

Several other potential risks were identified during Steering Committee or Working Group meetings. The following is a list of risks or comments that have been raised as well as how the group will mitigate these risks:

  • Agronomy staff will no longer champion only one crop because they will serve many crops.
    • The organization will hold annual regional meetings or crop interest groups for members who are keenly interested in being involved.
  • Smaller acreage crops might get lost in a bigger organization.
    • The organization will hold regional meetings on an annual basis as a way to improve the grassroots connection to members across the province.
    • The initial Board of Directors will be made up of three farmer Directors from each of the five organizations.
  • The bigger you get, the more “high level” your messages might be to accommodate a broader perspective.
    • Farmers will still lead and drive the new organization as they do today – but will have a stronger voice representing over 8000 farmers and over 60% of the field crops.
  • A bigger organization might be slower moving in terms of decision making or changing direction.
    • The farmer Board will be made up of 15 Directors which is still viewed as an acceptable size to enable quick decision making.
  • Board members will represent all crops and thus should be somewhat knowledgeable on all of the crops.
    • The initial Board of Directors will be made up of three Directors from each of the organizations.
    • The organization will have increased staff specialists available to support the farmer Directors in their duties.
  • Increased workload for farmer Directors in the first few years as the new organization gets established.
    • If the committee involvement is shared equally among the 15 Directors of the new organization, we expect that the workload will be similar to the current level.

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