Winnipeg—National Farmers Union Region 5 (Manitoba) states that the current stable funding model for General Farm Organizations (GFO) to represent Manitoba farmers’ voices on agriculture issues needs a serious fix.
On January 17, 2017, Manitoba Minister of Agriculture, Ralph Eichler, announced he would hold consultations to find a better way to help farm organizations receive funding from farmers.
The current membership check-off model in Manitoba is cumbersome, not free of corporate influence, and cannot represent a diversity of farmers because it is limited to those who deliver grain to elevators. In addition, there is red tape for elevators, the burden of making annual reimbursement requests by farmers and major paperwork needed for farm organizations in the collection of the fees.
Most costly of all is the inability of a diversity of farm voices to be fairly supported by Manitoba’s current stable funding model. There is no choice of voice.
Manitoba currently has two general farm organizations (GFOs) – The National Farmers Union Region 5 (Manitoba) since 1969 (NFU) and Keystone Agriculture Producers (KAP) since 1984. Currently KAP is the group legislated to receive the check-off funds, while the NFU is funded by voluntary farmer membership. This is due to the fact that the Agriculture Producers Funding Act of Manitoba states: “Only one qualified organization may be certified as the certified organization at any one time.” (16 (2))
In contrast, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick recognize farmer diversity under their stable funding legislation, allowing farmers to choose among two or more GFOs through a farm registration model, thus giving farmers choice of voice on farm issues. Some farmers belong to more than one GFO and the Manitoba government should allow for this option.
In September 2013 the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Ontario concluded that offering stable funding to multiple general farm organizations was necessary because it offers “the democratic freedom of farmers to choose the voice that best represents their interests” and stating that the “practice increases transparency, improves the quality of policy decisions and contributes to public acceptance of the decisions that are implemented”.
The Ontario model collects membership fees from farmers and distributes the funds to the GFOs according to the farmers’ choice, all at a very low cost. The NFU urges Manitoba to follow the example of Ontario in funding a minimum of two GFOs.
For more information:
Ian Robson, NFU (Region 5) Manitoba Regional Coordinator (204) 741-1017
Dean Harder, NFU (Region 5) Manitoba Board Member (204) 797-6388