The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter

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What if the Government said your vote didn't matter?

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on September 27, 2011 at 10:20 PM

The farmer owned CWB (Canadian Wheat Board) handles export sales of Canadian barley and wheat, pooling every penny of profits back to the farmers. The CWB is known as a formidable international competitor, successfully defending against free trade legal actions, finding the best markets in tough times and mitigating the effect of fluctuating grain prices.



When the Harper government put in motion their plan to scrap the single desk, not-for-profit wheat board in favour of a multitude of competing private businesses, farmers spoke out strongly against that decision. In the recent plebiscite, over 40,000 farmers (62%) voted to keep the single desk CWB in place. 


The Harper government is ignoring farmers’ choice.


There has been a lot of talk about the wheat board “monopoly,” and the restrictions it places on farmers. But the wheat board, as the powerful unified voice for thousands of prairie farmers, allows farmers to compete head-on with large international grain companies, while having the pooled resources to ride out periods of lower prices.


We don’t need to guess at the results if the wheat board is privatized and farmers begin selling directly to grain buyers. The Australian Wheat Board has already undergone the change, and is now broken up and taken over by Canadian fertilizer company Agrium and U.S. agri-food giant Cargill. With farmers competing against each other instead of working cooperatively through the wheat board, prices dropped, quality standards slipped and logistics fell apart.


In Denmark, farmers gamble every year on whether to sell grain on contract or wait out the market. The private companies who buy the grain often sell many different products, making farmers’ interests secondary to the goals and bottom line of the company.


Where farmers take on the enormous task of dealing directly with buyers, they have to waste precious farming time keeping track of the markets and negotiating with companies who have the resources to wait out cash and time strapped producers.


Farmers will have to make their own shipping arrangements instead of being able to rely on short lines (serving those who live farther from the main elevators)  and producer car loading sites (railway sidings where farmers load their own grain, at a savings of about $1600 per railcar). Without the CWB, farmers won’t have the resources to maintain these essential parts of the shipping system, for-profit grain companies and railways won’t have the interest, and producers who live too far from main terminals won’t be able to carry the increased costs of selling their grain.


Dave Woods used to be an opponent of the wheat board until he and a group of neighboring farmers found themselves “staring power in the face, in the form of the grain companies and the railways.” Now he’s a director of the CWB. “The more I learned about why we have the CWB,” says Woods, “the longer my list of benefits from the CWB grew. On the other side, all I had was ‘freedom.’ It didn’t balance.”


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Our current government in Manitoba is a powerful voice in support of the wheat board. Ask your candidates whether they will fight for farmers and do what it takes to keep the CWB.


More action:

Sign the CWBA’s e-postcard telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and your own MP to respect farmers’ vote!

Sign the Government of Manitoba’s online petition.

More things you can do at the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance - Take Action


Sources:

Short Lines And Producer Cars Are In Jeopardy With CWB Demise - Ag Canada - August 29, 2011 - By Helen McMenamin (Article about Dave Woods)
Marketing freedom is risky business
- The StarPhoenix - September 15, 2011 - By Lynden Kjaer (Article about Denmark)
Why rush to flush CWB?
- The Leader-Post September 24, 2011 - By Bruce Johnstone
Notes on the Loss of the Australian Wheat Board Single Desk
- Canadian Wheat Board Alliance


Resources:

Farmers to own ships: historic CWB announcement a major step forward - CWB Newsroom - February 8, 2011
Excerpt from John Morriss’s editorial in  the Manitoba Cooperator
- August 11, 2011.


Contributor: Mary McCandless - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Member

Categories: Voter Information

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