Big swings in revenue and expenses have rocked the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers in recent years, but the organization is handling both crop production and pandemic challenges without losing its focus.
“At the end of 2020, MPSG was operating somewhat leaner but with a sharpened focus on our goals and priorities,” said association executive director Daryl Domitruk during the online-only annual meeting.
The organization has been buffeted by the dreadful 2019 soybean harvest, followed by the disruptions of COVID-19.
The impact can be seen in the organization’s net check-off levies for 2020 increasing by more than $1million to $3.38 million from $2.6 million.
“A disappointing crop and low soybean prices in 2019 sent MSPG into 2020 with a degree of caution regarding our balance sheet,” said Domitruk.
A couple of positions were left open as a response, including his own recently vacated position as research director.
When the pandemic hit, research everywhere became difficult. Much of what MPSG funds is research, so this led to a big impact on the financial statements, with “expenses” falling from $4.03 million in 2019 to $3.46 million in 2020.
“The most notable (change) was research, which was under budget by around $844,000,” said Domitruk.
Research and agronomy extension is a key focus of MPSG, but that was also badly disrupted by COVID-19.
“Virtually all in-person extension was cancelled,” said Domitruk.
Staff found alternative ways to offer advice and education.
“Under trying circumstances (they) really delivered with alternative approaches to research and extension.”
The organization’s research efforts are focused on reducing pest control costs, boosting crop yield and quality, increasing market demand and improving soil quality. The last of those is becoming a bigger interest as concerns about sustainability rise among farmers, consumers and governments.
“All of those features we think will lead to our vision of Manitoba farmers sustainably producing profitable pulse and soybean crops,” said Domitruk.
The organization is also spending more time on policy development, working with like-minded groups such as Manitoba Canola Growers, the Manitoba Crop Alliance and Grain Growers of Canada.
Especially now, with so much attention on the economic, health and environmental positives of pulse crops, governments need to be urged to create the conditions that will allow farmers to maximize their production.
“We must continue to carry this message into the centres of power to achieve recognition and the best outcomes for our growers,” said Domitruk.
The organization will be circulating research and agronomy results to Manitoba farmers through its various publications. Those include a fababean pest scouting guide, a dry bean desiccation and harvest guide and an organic pea guide.
The MPSG meeting is usually held as part of the CropConnect show, which brings together a number of commodity organizations and has grown to become the most important farm organization conference of the year in Manitoba.
The annual meetings are just part of that event, with many keynote sessions and agronomy talks attracting thousands of farmers over the course of the conference.
The lack of the event brought a melancholy reaction from Toban Dyck, the MPSG communications director.
“I miss CropConnect a lot. The conversations with all of you farmers and the great feedback we receive as an organization is paramount to our operations,” said Dyck.
Like so many things in farming, that experience of moving among throngs of farmers has been pushed into next-year country.