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by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The merger is on.
Ontario’s corn, soybean and wheat producers have opted to support a merger of their marketing boards, the Ontario Farm Products and Marketing Commission told the boards late Thursday afternoon.
The results of the Commission’s September vote show that more than 70 per cent of the 4,639 producers casting ballots supported the recommendation to merge the three boards.
“It’s a good thing; it’s been four years (in the making),” says Ontario Soybean Growers chair Leo Guilbeault.
Reached Friday morning at the Guelph offices his board shares with the Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board and the Ontario Corn Producers Association, Guilbeault says all three heads of the boards were working “side-by-side” to inform staff and directors of the decision.
He says the target date for completing the merger is June 1, 2009.
Two steps are ahead to achieve this goal: preparing the three boards’ offices for the merger and changing governing regulations.
“To change all the regulations to make three organizations into one has to go through (provincial) cabinet,” Guilbeault says.
“As of today it’s a go; we’ve had a clear mandate from growers that they want this to happen.”
In a news release issued this morning, Elmer Buchanan, the Commission’s vice-chair, states he “reviewed the balloting data from the Producer Expression of Opinion Vote and 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.”
The “yes” ballots represent more than 72 per cent of the eligible acreage accounted for in the ballots cast, the release said.
However, the total number of votes cast is less than one quarter of the 28, 386 ballots the Commission sent out.
On its website, the Commission states participation rate in the vote is considered when gauging the level of producer support for a proposal. The percentage of producers voting in favour of the question and the cumulative level of production they represent are other factors.
Buchanan says the Commission’s “thresholds” were met but admits the voter turnout was low, and “not what we would have liked.” He notes the Commission also received 401 ballots that were spoiled.
He attributes some of the poor response to an impression within the farm community that the decision to merge had already been made, despite information sessions held across the province.
The responses received for the largest vote the Commission has ever held revealed consistent results across the different commodities and across the different size of farm operations, he says. “There’s no skewing of the data here.”
Buchanan says the boards will establish an interim board to handle the transition. “Things aren’t going to just flip, short-term; it’ll take a while.”
On the mail-in ballot, growers were asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question:
“Are you in favour of a single marketing board for corn, soybeans and wheat described as ‘Grain Farmers of Ontario’ in the enclosed information summary.” BF