Farm groups officially talk merger

Five Manitoba crop groups have taken another step closer to a formal merger by signing a memorandum of understanding to consider such a move.

“We share a common grower base and also have similar activities,” Pam de Rocquigny, general manager of both the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association and the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, said about the rationale for a multi-crop organization merger.

“At the end of the day, we want to deliver more value to Manitoba farmers.”

For the next year, the wheat and barley association, the corn association, the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers Association, the Manitoba Flax Growers Association and the National Sunflower Association of Canada will be working with an adviser and talking to farmers about whether the five organizations should officially merge.

The idea has been discussed since 2014, but focused action has been most intense since the idea was publicly promoted at the CropConnect conference in February, at which the various organizations hold their annual meetings.

CropConnect is seen by proponents of the merger as an example of how these individual commodity organizations are already working together to bring a better return for farmers. Four of the organizations also already work out of the same building in Carman. 

Proponents hope that by combining staff and facilities, more and better crop research and market development can be undertaken, with agronomists and program people more easily able to work across crop lines.

“It’s just a matter of breaking down silos,” said Francois Labelle, executive director of the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers Association.

De Rocquigny’s joint general managership of the corn and wheat and barley groups is an example of how closely the groups are already working together.

Some crop groups have not joined the merger effort and some are not expected to do so. For example, the Manitoba Canola Growers Association is a well-integrated part of the Canadian Canola Growers Association and the Canola Council of Canada. Its focus is on developing canola across Canada rather than focusing on Manitoba-specific concerns. The same applies to the Manitoba Oat Growers Association, which is part of the national Prairie Oat Growers Association.

Both the canola and oat organizations are closely connected with grain companies, marketers, processors and other elements of their commodity value chains.

The adviser for a possible merger has yet to be hired, and much of the next year will be spent working out details and getting farmer reaction.

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