What is FNA?
Farmers of North America is a registered business name for Farms and Families of North America Inc, commonly referred to and used throughout this handbook as “FNA.”
We are more than 10,000 farmer Members across North America in all sectors of agriculture. We are a farm business alliance with a singular mission” Maximizing Farm Profitability”.
Grain growers currently form the largest contingent among us, but most of us also raise beef and some of us have pork, chicken, dairy and horticultural operations. Our Members are also members in many other farm organizations, from all perspectives, commodity groups and breed associations. Participating in FNA to maximize farm profitability, we hale from the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and the National Farmers Union, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Simmental Association. See “Our Members” for more information on the makeup of our Membership.
It is important to put aside the narrow and incorrect idea that FNA is a “volume buying group” as it has sometimes been called in the media. While negotiating price based on volume is part of what we do, it is not the “biggest” thing we do and it is not the primary reason to get involved with FNA.
In fact, becoming part of the farm business alliance is not like “joining” any other organization or business. Instead of “joining” you are actually “employing” a management team that negotiates for farm inputs, encourages new competitive products to be developed, and creates opportunities for you to have an ownership stake in the supply chain for which you are already paying.
FNA is a business strategy to multiply our market power to achieve together that which we cannot achieve alone – assuring the further development of tools and programs for each of us to maximize profitability.
(See the Three Pillars for information about the foundational objectives of “What is FNA.”)
In practical terms, FNA is a business alliance of farmers dedicated to maximizing farm profitability.
To serve that mission, FNA has created strategies, directed through the value chain from input suppliers, on the farm, to international markets. In building the business alliance, its founders understood the need for a sophisticated farmer-centric approach, guaranteeing disciplined attention to Member Service, working with suppliers with strong product research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, and maintaining an active stance toward government relations.
Prior to approaching any suppliers at all, FNA does extensive development work. Management turns its mind on an ongoing basis to what priorities and opportunities exist to maximize Members’ farm profitability. When a specific opportunity is identified FNA goes through a process to determine the best way to realize that opportunity. Only if it is decided that the best way is to approach a specific supplier is that approach made. However the opportunity is pursued, it is always done to create competitive options for Members. So, third-party suppliers are involved after supporting market research and a clear evaluation process demonstrates they are a good fit for FNA Members.
Tuned to these principles, FNA achieves its mission without being a supplier or distributor, but steadfastly remaining a farm business alliance with maximizing farm profitability as the motivating principle.
So, programs start with FNA establishing a priority for the Members, such as glyphosate, identifying a supplier who can address that priority, and then negotiating with that supplier to establish the terms under which it may be able to provide Members with competitive pricing and other favourable terms such as direct to farm delivery.
What FNA is Not
FNA is not a retailer, manufacturer or input supplier. As noted, FNA does not actually “sell” Members any products (other than their Memberships). FNA does directly provide some services such as business and farm management training and systems. FNA does negotiate to build new programs such as the MarketPower Assurance program. But even with those, they are operated by a trusted supplier, not by FNA.
Rather than “selling” things to Members, FNA is on the “buy” side of the relationship. We help Members buy well and buy profitably. When we negotiate with suppliers, we are negotiating as if we were the Member who needed those products, with a mind to getting the best possible terms. We alert Members to special value offers provided by suppliers, but even if FNA Member Services facilitates the transaction, it is the supplier who makes the sale, not FNA.
FNA is not a farm policy organization. There are many good general farm organizations, commodity groups and breed associations that serve these purposes well. FNA sponsored the FNA Strategic Agriculture Institute as a research and education entity, and FNA provides major funding to that institute. But it is legally independent of FNA and, unlike FNA, is a federally incorporated not-for-profit organization.
FNA is not a “not-for-profit” organization. It is a private business organized as a farm business alliance. As noted, the FNA Strategic Agriculture Institute was created as a not-for-profit to pursue those things appropriate to that form of organization.
FNA is not a co-operative. While FNA acknowledges the strengths of both the co-operative and corporate business models and even includes some co-op principles in its structure, we believe the FNA model has distinct advantages.
As a private farm business alliance, FNA is able to focus on its singular mission of maximizing farm profitability without distraction or disruption. This means, for example, that FNA does not take a political position on a divisive issue among farmers like the long-lived debate over the Canadian Wheat Board, or debates about supply management, or any other partisan or ideological issue. As a private farm business alliance we do not support or oppose any government. There are no Member debates about these issues. We are totally focused on maximizing farm profitability under any circumstances, in any policy environment, under any government.
FNA is a centre of relationships from suppliers, farm organizations and service providers all based on the profitability interests of FNA Members.
The Three Pillars
FNA builds on three pillars: Growth, Efficiency, Member Value, which we call GEM Value.
We make GEM Value reality in four ways:
- Increasing competition in the market
- Driving efficiencies in the value chain
- Providing timely, effective and value-adding information to Members
- Supporting opportunities for farmers to achieve equity ownership in the value chain
The pillars are inter-connected and each is reflected internally — i.e organizationally — and externally — our work for and with others.
GEM internally means working toward, and evaluating our work against, the impact on growth of the farm business alliance, our skill sets and talent pool, and the financial health of FNA. It also means evaluating our work and programs for their impact on growing services to Members, growing range of suppliers available to Members and building a foundation to capture new opportunities to grow Member Value.
Efficiency goes beyond the obvious imperative to be operationally efficient, to being alert to and creating efficiencies that benefit Members, and even more broadly systemic efficiencies that can have large system-wide impacts. An example might be negotiating with suppliers to introduce direct farm delivery which generates efficiencies through the entire supply chain (eliminates the need for intermediate warehousing and local depots and reducing the number of times products are handled and transported).
Member Value is always connected to the first two pillars, but is on its own the most critical pillar. This is to say that a lack of progress in the other two may cause us to tilt or wobble, but a failure in Member Value will certainly cause the entire structure to collapse. So Member Value must be the core criteria against which we measure everything we do — if we cannot identify a link back to Member Value then the job or work being evaluated should not exist.
For example, creating competition can include negotiating with suppliers to provide FNA Members favourable pricing, encouraging new suppliers to enter different markets or even encouraging suppliers to introduce new products that will provide competition for existing farm inputs.
As well, in working with others (including both not-for-profit and commercial entities), FNA focuses on government and institutional relations, broadening the relationships with elected officials, government departments and other farm organizations. We have formal arrangements with some farm organizations, sometimes on a project basis and in some cases through ongoing cooperation agreements. A key objective for our government relations and farm organization work is to contribute to greater competitiveness on farm inputs through regulatory or policy changes.
FNA is evolving strong agricultural information capacity including decision-support information on crop marketing, provided to Members by DTN through subscriptions that are included in their Membership or expanded information packages with preferential pricing for FNA Members.
FNA Members also see the need for farmers to obtain a greater share of the value of their products by having an ownership stake in the supply chain. FNA supports such opportunities, for example as represented by ProjectN and the FNA Fertilizer Limited Partnership.
Above all GEM Value is about driving the mission to maximize farm profitability for Members through every activity engaged in by FNA.