Provincial groups assess canola council cuts

Grower organizations say they would be willing to spend more to fill the gaps created by national reorganization

Canola-grower members of provincial canola organizations support the reductions of the Canola Council of Canada, but are taking a wait-and-see approach before pronouncing final judgment.

They say they’re willing to consider filling gaps that appear and to spend more on farmer priorities.

“We’re going to assess this first year and see how it rolls out and go from there,” said Charlene Bradley, a board member of SaskCanola and a farmer representative on the Canola Council of Canada board.

“We’re supportive of the changes and we’re going to assess and if it doesn’t meet the needs, then we’ll have to have some conversations.”Manitoba Canola Growers President Charles Fossay had a similar view.

“I feel we really have to give this thing a chance and see where it goes,” he said.

“We’ll have to see how things proceed for a year or two to get a real feel of what is the impact of these changes.”

The canola council announced massive cutbacks to some of its roles and its budget in early December.

The organization is dropping canola product promotion in the United States and Mexico and scaling back its agronomy extension with farmers.

The changes were provoked by Richardson International’s decision in late 2017 to quit the council, blowing a million dollar hole in the organization’s finances, and following complaints by other commercial members that some of the council’s operations were redundant.

The overall budget has been slashed from almost $9 million to a little over $5 million.

Farmers, through their provincial organizations, will now be funding a larger proportion of a smaller organization and actually contributing fewer dollars to the CCC.

Renn Breitkreuz, chair of Alberta Canola, said farmers have been big fans of the CCC’s agronomy extension work.

“We like what they are doing,” he said.

“We’re very proud of the agronomy team the canola council has developed.”

Agronomy extension isn’t something the provincial councils have been providing, instead relying upon the CCC’s agronomists, but the provincial organizations may now consider filling the void.

“We’re putting a little less money into the canola council and we’ll be using that for domestic promotion and also for additional research,” said Fossay.

“Do we take (some of) that money and hire an agrologist who works for Manitoba canola growers? We don’t have that right now but maybe it’s something we should have in future.”

Before the changes, farmers provided about 30 percent of the CCC’s budget, but they will now be supplying about 50 percent. The contributions will also be more predictable, since they will be based upon set contributions rather than based upon the size of that year’s crop.

Breitkreuz said Alberta Canola has been investing more heavily in agronomy research and might increase that now.

“That’s been a big focus for the board,” he said.

It will take at least one growing season to see how farmers are affected by the agronomy extension cuts, Bradley said.

“I’m not sure we’re going to see a huge change for us,” she said.

“We’re going to take a look and see what resources we feel are necessary that aren’t being met . . . by the CCC.”

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