Farmers shouldn’t be hostage of investor groups

Everything is bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes. 


Holding true to the slogan is the influence of the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas, on the board of McDonald’s Corp. The influence of the Congregation appears to be big enough to influence direction. 


A recent Drover’s article links a shareholder group that includes the Benedictine Sisters to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which has a collective shareholder value of more than $1 billion in corporations such as McDonald’s Corp.


The Congregation of Benedictine Sisters and the ICCR want to leverage social change through their interests in global corporations. With the global reach and presence of McDonald’s Corp, it is a natural lever for concerned shareholders to deliver their message and initiate change. 


Shareholders ultimately control the direction of the companies in which they invest, and if a group such as the ICCR resolves to change meat sourcing practices, the corporation will be asked to follow shareholder direction. The accountability to the shareholders is key to the future health of a publicly traded company.


The notion that decisions such as meat sourcing are globally influenced by concerned shareholders as a lever for social change is a fascinating dynamic, especially when the change desired by the shareholders is directed at local producers. 


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The recent increase in activity linking Canadian producers to McDonald’s is likely driven out of the expected changes desired by shareholders. This may have some fantastic spinoffs, but it should not be confused as an initiative developed by Canadian producers.


Production practices for meat animals are increasingly influenced through specific program demands, and Canadian producers cannot ignore the potential opportunities. 


However, we need to pay attention to the dynamics within the corporations that wish to source Canadian products and recognize that although the Canadian producer’s products may be highly sought after, the corporations seeking our products are responsible to their shareholders and not Canadian producers. This is not to be feared, but needs to be acknowledged.


It is important that the shareholders of publicly traded companies demand accountability of the corporations they own. So too should producer organizations be responsible to their producers for direction. 


If this accountability is overlooked, the leverage of an unrelated shareholder group may be thrust onto Canadian producers and allow outside shareholder groups to drive our agenda.


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We cannot ignore the expectations of such shareholders, but there is value in engaging producers in direct discussions about these developments. 


The accountability for this en-gagement lies within our provincial and national organizations, and I hope that they take into account the shareholders they represent. If they don’t, whose interests are they protecting?


The opportunity to be engaged in the discussion surrounding changing production practices is sure to yield a greater understanding of the opportunities for Canadian producers in domestic and global markets. 


Let’s make sure that provincial and national actions are accountable to local realities.


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Ross Macdonald, M.Sc., P.Ag., ranches in southern Saskatchewan.

  • richard

    Well stated…. but I would add that neither should producers be held hostage to ideological positions held by agribiz marketing delusions….. Ractopamine, zilmax, RGBH, antibiiotics as prophylactics, implants, BSE, e coli…… all have periodically held livestock hostage to “cheap food for the hungry planet” mythology…. If you accept that shareholder groups are nothing but a reflection of consumer trends and conviction, then you realize that ignoring the consumer is your choice…..taken at your peril……If you need proof look at the GM marketing debacle staged in real time before our eyes, on these pages…..every week, of every month ad infinitum……

  • Denise

    Farmers should not feel that they are hostages to agri-chemical and biotech industry, either.
    Google: GMO Cookie is Crumbling