Toban Dyck, Director of Communications, MPSG
‘POLICY’ IS AN amorphous term. It’s used in a variety of ways. And at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG), we use the word frequently.
We question how active we should be in the policy space. After all, research, extension and market development have been our meat and potatoes. We talk at length about the kinds of issues that should trigger our interest and expertise. We do all of this without starting each conversation with a working definition of what policy means.
Surprisingly, the definition of policy is not uncontroversial. Without getting into the weeds on this (I took a Public Policy in Canada course at the University of Winnipeg this winter, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the proverbial policy weeds), let’s operate on the assumption that by ‘policy,’ we mean every outward expression (action, statement, bill, etc.) taken by a government, organization or company.
I’m coming up on five years with MPSG, and during each one of those, the association has taken part in many consultations. One way or another, these meetings influence policy. Federal and provincial governments rely on the expertise of organizations like ours to bolster their own internal capacity to come up with agricultural policies and they lean on groups like ours to provide meaningful feedback on exiting or nascent agricultural policies.
When we, as an organization, have taken the time to determine whether or not MPSG is a group that should be involved in this arena, the conclusion is always that, whether or not we make ‘doing’ policy an explicit part of our mandate, we are, invariably and inextricably involved in it.
Research is a policy issue. Government- funding programs of any sort represent policy. The provincial government’s decision to shutter 21 of its Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation and Rural Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development locations is very much a policy move.
The realities and nuances of this policy space were brought home to us this winter with our involvement in the consultations surrounding a proposed Code of Practice for farmers. This code, put briefly, is a voluntary set of guidelines aimed at securing market access for Canadian crops and building trust among the public that farmers are, in fact, growing food, sustainably.
We were opposed to the draft, as it was written, but we were sensitive to the consultation process, which sought feedback from organizations as well as individual farmers, and we didn’t want to poison the well or put words into people’s mouths. Our position required a careful analysis of the social media channels this pressure was coming from and thoughtful discussion about the sanctity of the consultation process. MPSG’s Executive Director, Daryl Domitruk, speaks to this and our policy involvement in other areas in his report.
Regarding ag policy, MPSG seeks to occupy a meaningful space amid a busy network of agricultural groups vying for your undivided attention.
This divulgence of MPSG’s relationship to policy does not represent a change in our operations. This is merely a look into what goes on behind the scenes of a commodity group like ours. Research, extension, Pulse Beat, production advice and our On-Farm Network will remain priorities for MPSG as long as they remain priorities for you, our farmer members.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Pulse Beat and I wish you all a fantastic growing season!