A look at CAAR’s plans and priorities for 2020.
CAAR’s staff, board of directors and committee groups are putting in the work to ensure the association is well-equipped at all levels to provide valuable services and dependable support to its members in the next year, and throughout the new decade.
**Editor's Note: Click here to see CAAR's updated Board of Directors for 2020-21.
Executive director Mitch Rezansoff says when the CAAR staff and board met during the fall 2019 board meeting, the group made several key determinations. These included a need to update the membership fee structure, incorporate the previously existing CAAR Training Committee into the Membership Value committee as a working group, and restructure the CAAR Advocacy Committee, allowing for work on a broader range of issues. CAAR is starting off the year with a clear vision to carry out meaningful changes to the structure of its operations. These updates will continue streamlining operational
efficiency and member value, guided by the long-term strategic plan CAAR developed in 2018-19.
Overall, Rezansoff says the association agreed to continue focusing on the work of CAAR’s committees and working groups and agreed to continue to expand and grow these crucial activities in 2020 to accomplish the association’s goals.
“A great thing that came out of the September meeting was the importance of CAAR member representatives on our committees really setting the priorities,” says Rezansoff. “It goes back to why it’s so important to be involved with CAAR – you have an opportunity to provide input on the direction CAAR is taking. The staff will put in the work, but we need the direction.”
Board and Executive Council: Setting the Course
In 2020, CAAR’s board chair, Don Kitson of International Raw Materials, says one of the most significant priorities for the board and executive council is increasing retail membership numbers and representing retailers at all levels within the industry and with government regulators.
“We want to increase the percentage of retailers that are CAAR members,” Kitson says. “CAAR spends a lot of time with industry partner associations and we want to make sure that we are communicating the retailer perspective to them and make sure regulations don’t prevent retailers from operating successfully.”
Kitson says the four pillars identified in the long-term strategic plan (Advocacy, Business Intelligence, Member Value and Business Sustainability) have helped the board identify ways to make CAAR more efficient. An example of this is the decision to move CAAR’s Training Committee to be a working group of the Membership Value Committee.
“We are seeing CAAR morph into a more efficient and effective organization,” he says. “The strategic plan reaffirmed the value of advocacy and helped us identify other areas of value.”
Advocacy Committee: Working at a High Level
At the February 2020 board meeting, which will take place on Friday, Feb. 14, Rezansoff hopes to appoint a new chair for the re-structured Advocacy Committee. Rezansoff says this restructuring is necessary because CAAR’s Advocacy Committee has been very focused solely on anhydrous ammonia.
While he says NH3 will continue to be an important focus area for CAAR’s advocacy efforts, the association can make better use of resources and better serve members by structuring the Advocacy Committee as a body to identify which topics affecting ag retailers require a response from CAAR.
Once these topics are identified, CAAR can create individual working groups to address each file, like anhydrous ammonia, MRLs or other ongoing issues.
“Focusing solely on fertilizer is too narrow,” says Rezansoff. “We see the Advocacy Committee operating at a high level, with a broad representation of members, to identify priorities and provide direction on the issues that we need to bring to the forefront. Then we can create the necessary working groups to address each issue.”
Rezansoff says he will present this structural change for a vote at the board meeting.
Communication Committee: Connecting with Members
The CAAR Communication Committee is actively seeking member feedback on CAAR’s communication channels and messaging in 2020.
“We are seeking feedback as we take a renewed look at a communication strategy going forward that delivers information to our membership base that is relevant, timely and formatted in a manner they want to receive and read,” says Martin Kiefer of Agrico Canada, Communication Committee chair and past board chair of CAAR.
Kiefer says member feedback will be the first step for CAAR to sharpen the focus and tailor communications to members, recognizing that each member may have interest in only some of the themes covered by CAAR’s communications.
“People will take time to engage with what interests them. That may be safety, regulatory and legislative information – which I see as our top priority to communicate – or information about new products, tools and strategies that can help your business or general industry stories,” he says.
Throughout 2020, Kiefer says the Communication Committee will be asking members to share what aspects of CAAR’s communications they view as strong and valuable, what they want to see more of and what they think has missed the mark.
“Communication isn’t a one-way street; to be effective it needs to be a two-way street. We look forward to strengthening our ties with members as we look for new elements and new evolutions in our communication,” says Kiefer.
Finance Committee: Operating Responsibly
CAAR’s finance chair Blaine Cochrane of Shur-Gro Farm Services Ltd. says the Finance Committee is always focused on making sure CAAR is operating in a fiscally responsible way, making sure expenses align with income and increasing revenue stability to secure long-term sustainability and success of the association.
“We want to build a strong, financially stable organization that is set up for future growth and issue management,” says Cochrane. “To do this, we need to grow our membership. Plain and simple.”
Cochrane says that going through the process of creating the long-term strategic plan in the second half of 2018 helped the board to see the association with a refreshed point of view. This has since helped them to think outside the box about strategies and approaches to grow membership and keep CAAR going strong into the next 25 years of operations.
“The strength of CAAR is its membership,” he says. “CAAR has been operating for 25 years, enduring through numerous periods of consolidation and change, and that shows that the industry is resilient and there is a need for a national association looking out for the best interests of ag retailers.”
As the CAAR staff, board and committees work to grow membership, Cochrane says the Finance Committee will continue to see that CAAR is carving out a strong financial position, spending money responsibly and maintaining the stability of the association.
Associations are time consuming, but your engagement is absolutely critical to the survival of the industry.
CAAR Conference Committee: Building an Experience
Taylor Olsen of Olds Fertilizers & Agri Services Ltd. says being involved with planning CAAR’s 25th anniversary conference has brought him a little extra personal satisfaction, as support for CAAR and the conference have become a tradition within his family business.
“Three generations of my family have been involved with CAAR, and my dad has been to nearly every conference,” he says. “The conference is a great networking event and I hope people leave the 2020 event feeling invigorated about our work and ready to get back out there. That’s how I feel when I leave.”
Olsen says the CAAR Conference Committee, along with the board and staff, will quickly dive into a preliminary evaluation of the event at the February board meeting following the conference.
“We’ll discuss how the conference went and see what immediate changes we may want to make for 2021 while staying in line with our long-term strategic plan,” says Olsen. “That plan has helped set a lot of good direction for the CAAR Conference to add and improve value for our members and ag retail in Canada.”
Membership Value Committee: Delivering Advantages
Committee chair Drew Taylor of AGI Yargus, says the committee has two top priorities in 2020. First: communicate more detail about CAAR’s value proposition to the general membership, focusing on advocacy, services, conference and communication. Second: implement a new fee structure for CAAR members that is more in line with both modern retail businesses and modern industry associations.
“The strategic plan helped us get a better idea of the makeup of the industry and who our key CAAR members are,” says Taylor. “Our committee has taken careful consideration to the fee structure last year and we look forward to implementing the new setup to maintain the membership we have today and grow industry participation for all retailers – independents, co-ops and line companies.”
Taylor emphasizes that a strong, engaged retail membership base is the bedrock for all of the association’s activities, but also recognizes that it is challenging to take the time to engage with CAAR. Even so, he encourages all members to participate actively with their association.
“We’re all working long hours. Farmers require more attention and more service now than at any time in the industry’s history,” he says. “Associations are time consuming, but your engagement is absolutely critical to nurturing the survival of the industry.”
CAAR’s Training Committee Becomes Working Group
CAAR will be able to provide effective and valuable training by including it as a working group under the Membership Value Committee.
“The Membership Value Committee will provide direction to say, ‘here are the areas in which our members need CAAR to provide them with training,’” says Rezansoff. “Then we can create the appropriate working groups for Transportation of Dangerous Goods, nurse tank safety or anything else.”
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