Pulse Beat Individual Articles

Message from Board Chair

Jason Voth, MPSG Chair

The future of commodity groups; flax council; the importance of commodity groups; crop insurance; and much much more – there is a lot happening right now.

Below is my take on what’s going on at MPSG. But it’s also my goodbye. Following the MPSG AGM at CropConnect in February, I will have resigned as chair of the board of directors. I will also have resigned from the board, entirely. I plan to devote more attention to the growth of my family and my farm.

Thank you for what has been a very rewarding experience! It has been an absolute honour to represent you. You’re a great bunch. I firmly believe in the value of MPSG and I will continue to advocate on behalf of the association as a contributing member. Thanks again!

MPSG HAS SUCCESSFULLY worked with the province of Manitoba to update some crop insurance policies and rates related to soybeans. It has been our mandate to represent the interests of our farmers at these meetings, and I think we’ve done a great job of effecting positive change at them.

How does being a member of a commodity group benefit your farm? This is the question we ask ourselves  at  the board table at every meeting. The check-off we collect needs to be invested towards something that either helps you on the field to grow the crop or helps you have a market for your crop. At MPSG, we feel we are doing a tremendous job of first matching and then multiplying your check-off dollars with government programs. We also feel that we are investing your check-off wisely. Our strategic plan outlines exactly where to invest the dollars, with the highest priority being research. We are funding projects in-house through our On-Farm Network, through government research farms and Manitoba universities.

Our On-Farm Network program has been growing since we started it. We are expanding the program in 2018 to include Manitoba Corn Growers and Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers. We’re working on some plots together. These are very exciting trials that will include some crop rotation studies, as well as others.

MPSG’s funding commitments earmarked to support research trials across the province are also important. We are working closely with highly qualified researchers across the province on varieties that are best suited for the diverse growing conditions in Manitoba. It is through MPSG’s work with universities that we are able to fill in the blanks. We can offer funding and agronomic support and they can do the same. When we compliment each other, we’re doing something of great value delivering results on potential projects related to insects, crop residue, tillage, etc.

This brings me to my next point. What does the future hold for Manitoba’s commodity groups? There is work being done on amalgamation. Some of the feedback is positive and some is negative. One of the most popular feedback comments so far has been that the small crops will lose their voice. And that with one large group, the small acreage crops  have their funding cut and will not have any more research done on them.

As someone who was involved in this at the board level, I believe that this will not  be the case at all. Take the flax council, for example. With minimal check-off being brought into the organization, it was forced to close its doors. It doesn’t matter how many acres there are, you still need to pay a staff person or two and have a well-equipped office for them to work out of. After that is paid, you can now divert money to research or market development. However, if there is no money left over, it’s a downward spiral with nothing being accomplished.

I feel that in a larger group with highly qualified staff being funded by all the groups, there would be more money able to be put into the small crops. This is what happens at our board table all the time. We represent soybeans, edible beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. If peas alone were to be in a group by themselves, that group would not draw enough investment dollars to operate. This is even more of a big deal now that Roquette will be operating out of Portage la Prairie and looking for peas.

Another topic of conversation that has come up as a response to the amalgamation discussions is if there needs to be a grower on the board that represents every crop. Or is it okay if the board of 15 maybe doesn’t have a specific group represented?

The argument is that if there is not someone growing a certain crop that means there is no expert on the board to champion that crop. I can say from experience on our board that none of us are experts in our crops yet we still get to make decisions on research funding. We use actual experts when it comes down to it.

When sending out the call for proposals and reviewing research ideas at the board table, we bring together experts from across Canada on specific crops. We bring in experts from Pulse Canada for anything related to nutrition and health. Our research staff deals with these topics on a daily basis and are there to give their opinions and ideas. Together as a team we decide what to fund and which direction to head. To be honest, when you start talking about a research proposal regarding genes, carbon, Health Canada claims, etc., it’s all above most of us. As I said earlier, we make decisions as a team.

Going forward, we need to ask ourselves what our commodity groups will look like in the future. Farming operations are getting bigger and the number of small single farmer-run operations is declining. We need to have highly functioning grower groups with forward thinking directors to make this sustainable. We need to work together to tackle the larger issues and keep our farms profitable in the future.

Have a great late winter. Hope we get some more snow yet before spring.

– Jason