Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Will Farmers Now Finally Get Choice?

I grew up on a farm so I am familiar with how the Canadian Wheat Board works. I remember my Dad had to have permit book in order to sell his wheat and barley. The permit book recorded how many bushels you brought in, the grade, the date.

The CWB issued quotas in which they dictated when, how much, and for what price you could sell your grain for. You could not sell anymore than the quota stated. Our elevator manager would call every time the CWB put a quota on. My dad would complain about the commie outfit that virtually controlled the producer. He would have loved to have the choice of when, to whom, how much, and at what price to sell his grain. I'm sure if he would have had choice, he actually would have made a profit. Some years he operated at loss, some years a profit but most years he was fortunate to break even. (He farmed for over 40 yrs.) I don't know how farmers actually make it anymore with the expenses and all.

To have a successful farming business you need to have a free market just like any other business. So are producers finally going to have choice? I sure hope so. It would be long over due.
Stephen Harper has managed to silence one of the most vocal and activist groups battling against his plan to give prairie farmers the right to opt out of selling their wheat and barley through the wheat board. Namely, the Canadian Wheat Board itself.

The board’s directors had, since the Tories’ election, been running a relentless campaign to protect their “single-desk” marketing monopoly. They regularly funded studies and surveys that invariably concluded the CWB’s model was the most profitable, most popular manner for grain marketing; when Ottawa held a plebiscite in 2007 that resulted in a majority of barley farmers voting for marketing choice, the directors launched a publicity campaign undermining it as rigged and irrelevant; they urged farmers to write the agriculture minister in protest.

That may have all stopped, permanently, after the Supreme Court on Jan. 22 declined to hear an appeal from the board that challenged an order from the government requiring it to stop using members’ money to fight political battles. The board’s directors had initially succeeded in getting a federal judge to find what it called a “gag order” to be illegal and unconstitutional. An appeals court later ruled that to be a mistake. With the directors’ last resort, the Supreme Court, declining to intervene, the appeals ruling stands.
Whatever deregulatory levers are available to them, expect the Tories to use them to the maximum extent: Mr. Harper first came to Ottawa promising an end to the Wheat Board’s monopoly and has only vowed steadfastness in that mission following a number of subsequent setbacks. This, his first tangible victory on the file, can only re-energize the Tories’ resolve.

They will still need it: with the Wheat Board’s opposition dispatched, the Tories must now find support from Parliament to proceed with any changes to the way the board operates. The Prime Minister will likely find no support from the NDP or the Bloc, who were convinced to see any deregulation as a threat to their own supply-managed agricultural industries.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has made conciliatory sounds toward Westerners since becoming leader; farmers will be watching to see whether he, now, will choose to make himself the last real hurdle to ending the Wheat Board’s monopoly. (h/t) Kevin Libin

The question is now, will Mr. Iffy support it? It would be nice to finally see the end of a single desk marketing entity. So Mr. Iffy where do you stand? Do you support the farmers right to choose?

Women get the right to choose. Why not the farmer? I urge everyone support a Farmer's Right To Choose! Support choice! Call your MP and demand they support choice for farmers when it comes up in parliament.


  1. Or perhaps Iffy would prefer to include all Canadian farmers under the CANADIAN Wheat Board monopoly, not just Western Cda...?

  2. Excellent wilson. Either give Western Canadian farmers choice or as you say include all (Ont. and Que.) farmers under and mandatory regime.

  3. Old Ralphie Goodale needs to be reminded how we Western farmers did not like nor forgive him for throwing our farmers in jail for selling their own grain!!!
    Something Eastern farmers do without penalty.

  4. I remember when I was growing up that the news would sometimes have a story about the CWB 'selling' wheat to the Soviets and the government 'lending' them the money to buy it.
    Does anyone know if these 'loans' were ever paid back?
    Also, Trudeau was in charge for fourteen of my first eighteen years.

  5. Anony, now that you mention, I vaguely remember something like that. I don`t know if those loans were paid back but I highly doubt it.

  6. Being a durum wheat grower since early 1970's I sure hope we get choice soon. Since about 60% of all grain grown on the prairies is controlled by the CWB, there is no escape to other crops. Sure you can rotate non-board crops like canola and lentils for 1 or 2 years out of 3 but you need at at least 1/3 of your crops to be wheat or barley for disease and weed prevention. I can only remember about 3 years out of 40 where we made a decent profit on wheat or durum. In all cases where the price was high, we payed dearly the next year as the CWB kept so much grain over we had a huge surplus thereafter. Whenever we have excellent prices with non-board crops we empty our bins taking advantage of the high prices.

    How would any other business like to plan to grow a crop not having any ability to lock in a final price on any portion of the crop. But you need to pay for all your inputs such as fertilizer which cost as much as $100 per acre in 2008, then find out 2 years later that the CWB is only selling 60% of that crop (about 40 bushels) for about $120 leaving only $20 for all other costs. Then 1 year later we find out we will only get another $56. On the 2008 crop we estimate we have lost over $75 per acre not including interest. In 2008 an American farmer could have locked in his crop of durum for about $10 per bushel netting a gross return of $400 which would have left us a profit of about $150.

    I rest my case!


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