Canola growers back council after Richardson pullout

Farmers regret grain company’s decision to leave; insists Canola Council of Canada does important work

Influential farmers and farmer-funded canola organizations are supporting the Canola Council of Canada in the wake of Richardson International’s decision to pull out.

The grain company’s complaints don’t appear to be shared by farmer representatives of today and the recent past.

“Collaboration and co-operation are the keys to success of any successful national council,” said Alberta Canola Growers Commission past-president and former canola council board member Greg Porozni.

“The CCC has done excellent work in market access, (pesticide residue restrictions) and grower agronomy for many years due to collaboration of all industry, (and) now this is in question, which is unfortunate.”

Former Canadian Canola Growers Association president and former CCC board member Brett Halstead from Nokomis, Sask., said he was “surprised and disappointed” that “suddenly one organization doesn’t want to work with the others.”

Halstead credited the CCC with boosting the awareness of Canada’s canola in foreign markets, tackling many challenging issues and helping farmers produce the kinds of crops that work for them and for users.

The CCGA issued a public statement of support soon after Richardson’s decision was made public.

“The canola grower members of the Canola Council of Canada fully appreciate the value they receive from the Canola Council of Canada for the substantial grower dollars they contribute and will continue to work to move the organization forward,” said the statement, signed by the presidents of the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba canola grower organizations.

The CCGA praised the council’s “non-sales based agronomy” advice and its efforts to build more canola demand overseas.

“The council’s market access efforts, which have included working with the highest levels of government, have kept our product moving to our international customers.”

Richardson has questioned both the agronomy and marketing efforts that the council undertakes, suggesting that private providers can provide agronomy assistance to farmers and that marketing promotion isn’t vital because canola is such a big crop now.

The news of the Richardson pullout came hours before the Manitoba Canola Growers Association session at Manitoba Ag Days, and while it was not an official topic, it was certainly a subject of discussion and chatter inside the sprawling Keystone Centre complex.

MCGA president Charles Fossay said he hopes other grain companies don’t follow Richardson’s lead and that the present review of the CCC’s activities and mandate could perhaps reverse the move.

“What do we have to do to get you to come back?” said Fossay.

However, he said funders of the provincial farmer organization will also have to assess how to undertake agronomy research and outreach if the CCC is pressured to reduce its agronomy efforts.

“This is going to force us into really looking at what the canola council has to do as a value chain organization,” said Fossay.

Independent agronomic research and knowledge transfer are vital for farmers, so perhaps the farmer organizations would need to pick up more of the role outside of the council.

CCC president Jim Everson said the organization is conducting a review of what it does, and most of its members seem happy with it.

“The council is having a good look in 2018 at those issues,” he said.

“What role does the industry need the association to play?”

Rumours of Richardson’s threat to quit has floated around the industry for months, and its unhappiness was not news to the CCC’s core funders. Its 2018 budget appears to acknowledge that there might be a funding decline, something only verified by Richardson to the council “just recently.”

“We’re pulling back a little bit on the market development side to address our budget requirements going into 2018,” said Everson.

“We will press on, and we’re very optimistic about where we’re going.”

Porozni said he was disappointed that Richardson would withdraw before the review is done. All parts of the industry have been working together to expand the crop on behalf of all the players, he added.

There has been pressure from companies such as Richardson for the council to merge with other oilseed associations, and efforts at that sort or merger or collaboration have not yet been able to proceed.

“I feel instead of completely pulling out, they should of put in a date of Jan. 1, 2019, to allow further discussion,” said Porozni.

It remains to be seen whether Richardson’s withdrawal is an isolated event or a sign of a deeper divide between commercial members and farmers or among commercial players. There are rumours that at least one more grain company has threatened to leave.

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