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Monday, June 16, 2008 

Why Western Farmers Need The Wheat Board

Progressive bloggers are well aware of the fight that has been going on between supporters of the Canadian Wheat Board and the ideological driven Harper government. You may also have noticed that when it comes to the plan by the Conservatives to gut the CWB ... all seems quiet now on the 'western front'.

Saskatchewan farmer, Larry Hill, is chair of the Canadian Wheat Board. He has an editorial published today in a number of western daily newspapers:

"The western Canadian grain industry has repeatedly been subjected to trade challenges -- a total of 14 times since 1990. In each case, the result has been the same: the CWB does not violate international trade regulations and acts as a fair and commercial marketer of western Canadian wheat and barley. This was confirmed as recently as 2005, when the U.S. International Trade Commission dismissed U.S. claims that Canada was in contravention of anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws.

The reason why the CWB continues to be targeted is simple: protectionist interests in other competing nations view the CWB as a threat. Since every claim of unfair trading practices has been dismissed, the only other reason for the attention that the CWB gets on the trade front is that it is doing its job -- getting the best possible price for our wheat and barley in the export markets."

Regina Leader-Post

I have general disdain for the way the government tried to force this issue by selectively focusing on barely (and by extension trying to force the issue on other farmers who were not as strongly in favor), by having a vote which was not monitored and by mis- representing the results of the vote (if memory serves correctly over 50% of voters wanted a flexible system in which they could sell to either the board or independently)

I generally support open markets but in some cases a monopoly may be warranted. I aoften get the picture that the collective influence of the wheat pool gets the highest price but the some farmers feel alienated for not being able to get a better price (read as: higher price and let service costs) Not being fully informed I have a couple of questions:

- Are farmers working outside the wheat board (in the east) better off than those who are forced to work with in the wheat board?

- I have heard that some of the charges the wheat board levees are egregious (farmers in Saskatchewan effectively have to pay for the cost of shipping to BC and back even through their product never leaves the province).

- The wheat board seems competitive in the world market but do hidden coasts make it not such a good deal for some farmers?

- Often prices the wheat board offers are less than those available on the market. Are farmers who are willing to take the risk getting short changed?

Nice try fotis ... trying out some new free-market talking points, 'eh?!

-"Are farmers working outside the wheat board (in the east) better off than those who are forced to work with in the wheat board?"

-" ... do hidden coasts make it not such a good deal for some farmers?"

" .. Are farmers who are willing to take the risk getting short changed?"
NOPE ... but right wing ideologues like to pretend that the unfettered free market will somehow be good for them!

Nothing sinister in my motives.... I have just never seen answers to these questions (which seem legitamite enough to me).

When I visit friends and family in Saskatoon these questions always come up.

If you had any additioanl detail or information it would be apreciated.

Thanks fotis .. nothing sinister intended in my reply either. I raised the question because what you asked are indeed the questions that the enemies of the CWB raise as a red herring to try and convince people that the Board should be abandoned in order to assist multi-national corporations.

There is a small group of very large barley growers who believe that they can monopolize the market themselves if the CWB could be done away with. The fact that the VAST MAJORITY of western grain farmers WANT the CWB is of no consequence to them.

Many of us would like to see family farms continue rather than large corporate farms.

Unfortunately any win by the CWB may be a hollow victory.

The fact that farmers rely on subsidies, rather than fair market value for their products will kill family farms before dismantling the wheatboard will. There is no incentive for the children of farmers to continue. Their parents hang onto their way of life by a thread while their children leave to work in Fort Mac because being a farmer doesn't pay.

It'll take more than the wheatboard to stop it. I just wish the NDP would actually come up with a solid plan to revitalize family farming and rural communities, rather than being caught up in exclusively urban/organized labour issues. The NDP was the party of farmers and rural people at one point, and I think it's time to consider that again.

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