Manitoba farmers approve five-group merger

Manitoba Crop Alliance will replace organizations representing sunflowers, flax, winter cereals, wheat and barley, and corn

Most of Manitoba’s grain groups are merging.

Members of the province’s sunflower, flax, winter cereal, wheat and barley, and corn grower organizations have approved a five-way merger of the organizations.

It brings to a successful conclusion an almost five-year drive to create a bigger, more stable and better organized body to represent farmers and fund research into many of their yearly cropping options.

“I’m relieved,” said Fred Greig, chair of Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers, about the results of the attempt to create the Manitoba Crop Alliance.

The idea was first made public at CropConnect in 2016, when it was raised by farmer and management consultant Kelly Dobson, as a way to allow Manitoba’s farmers to gain a stronger and more coherent voice when dealing with coming challenges.

The five farm groups who embraced the idea (oats and pulse grower groups decided to remain independent) planned to get the merger approved in much less time, but substantial farmer concern about what it would mean caused them to slow down and spend a couple of years talking, consulting and communicating.

Some of the concerns lingered. While a couple of the crop organizations had little or no discussion about the merger at their 2020 CropConnect meetings, a couple had vigorous discussions.

At the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers meeting, farmers for and against the proposal debated how it would affect farmer representation, research funding decisions and small crop visibility.

However, when the votes were counted, all five organizations had approved the proposal. If any had not, the proposal would have died and the remaining pro-merger players would have had to go back to the drawing board.

Already some of the smaller organizations have been sharing office space and staff, but this merger allows staffing, space and decision making to be better co-ordinated.

Each crop will be represented within the merged organization by a committee of farmers, which current directors hope can contain newly involved and younger farmers.

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