Ont. corn, soy, wheat growers back merger

Ontario’s corn, soybean and wheat growers’ marketing boards will begin the process of merging as “Grain Farmers of Ontario,” with the blessing of farmers who voted on the marriage proposal.

“Today the government of Ontario will begin the regulatory process necessary to create a new marketing board for corn, soybean and wheat producers to be known as Grain Farmers of Ontario,” Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky said Friday, announcing the results of a producer vote.

Now begins the work of merging the three groups into the GFO, their spokesmen said in a separate release Friday. “There are a lot of puzzle pieces to fit together now, including staff roles and responsibilities and introducing a new board of directors,” said Leo Guilbeault, chairman of Ontario Soybean Growers (OSG).

“We did as much preparation as we could in anticipation of a ‘yes vote’ so our team is ready to hit the ground running.”

The first order of business for the GFO transition plan is to mobilize a human resources consulting firm to ensure “as smooth a transition as possible,” the three groups said.

The three groups are expected to dissolve upon completion of the legislative process and a transitional board and CEO will be in place later in 2009. Elections for 150 delegate positions and 15 directors will take place on an annual basis starting in January 2010, the groups said.

Results “reflect sentiment”

Out of 4,639 eligible farmers who cast ballots before the postmark deadline of Sept. 30, 70.4 per cent favoured merging the OSG, Ontario Corn Producers’ Association and Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board into one marketing board, the province reported.

The “yes” votes also cover 72.2 per cent of eligible acreage accounted for in the ballots cast, the province noted.

Under the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission’s rules for such a vote, at least two-thirds of those voting, representing 50 per cent of the tonnage voting, had to vote in favour of the proposal for it to pass.

“I am confident that the results reflect the sentiment of corn, soybean and wheat producers regardless of whether they market one, two or all three of these crops and regardless of their farm size,” Elmer Buchanan, OFPMC’s vice-chair, said in the province’s release.

“Our members have given clear direction to the (OFPMC) on how they want to be represented, and we’re committed to ensuring we provide value to them” through GFO, said Dale Mountjoy, president of OCPA, in the three groups’ release.

Ballots were sent to 29,000 eligible voters, for a total voter turnout of just under 16 per cent.

The groups noted that the rationale behind GFO is “not to achieve net cost savings but to reinvest savings from efficiencies gained in high priority areas to serve producers’ needs.”

For example, they said, a grower who produces corn, soybeans and wheat may now be getting separate mailings from each organization. “There is much greater redundancy in terms of the members served by each organization than there would be if there was only one organization,” they said on their combined website.

The GFO’s structure has been designed so that other commodities could be accommodated in future, “if that is what producers choose,” the groups said.

Producers looking for more information can attend district annual meetings throughout the month of January.

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