Canada’s largest agribusiness has pulled its funding from three of the country’s national oilseed organizations.
Richardson International is no longer funding the Canola Council of Canada, the Flax Council of Canada and Soy Canada.
“We don’t think we got the value out of it,” said Jean-Marc Ruest, Richardson’s senior vice-president of corporate affairs.
The company was spending over $1 million annually to fund the three organizations and didn’t feel it was getting its money’s worth.
Richardson had been discussing its concerns over mandate, structure and governance with the organizations for two years and didn’t get the response it was hoping for.
“We’ve now discussed it long enough and we feel strongly enough to say that we can’t continue down this path anymore,” said Ruest.
The company had asked the three organizations to explore the idea of forming one national oilseed council to increase efficiencies.
“The same issues are being discussed at multiple tables by the same people,” he said.
But the commodity groups rejected the merger idea. He said the smaller organizations felt they would be swallowed up by canola, while canola worried that its substantial resources would be diverted to prop up the smaller crops.
“People have difficulty sometimes moving out of their comfort zones. This is a new way of looking at things,” said Ruest.
Richardson also wanted to see changes to the mandates of the councils.
For example, the company wondered why the Canola Council was devoting so much of its resources to market development for a well-established, 23-million acre crop that is known around the world.
Ruest said the company was also concerned about the Canola Council’s extensive work on agronomy when the private sector already has their own agronomists working in the countryside.
“Is there an element of duplication that should be looked at?” he said.
“Saying that they can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be doing something.”
Ruest said, in fairness, the Canola Council is reconsidering its mandate and looking at some of the concerns Richardson has raised.
He noted that other grain and life-science companies have raised similar concerns.
Ruest said Richardson is already very active in agronomy and market development work and if a market access issue arises the company will work with the federal government and the councils on finding a solution.
He noted that the company isn’t completely dropping out of funding grain industry groups. It is still providing substantial funding to organizations such as the Canadian International Grains Institute and Cereals Canada.
And Richardson hasn’t shut the door on funding a national oilseed council in the future.
“If, ultimately, they decide that they want to reconsider and reform, we’d be happy to take a look at it at that point,” said Ruest.