Canadian Wheat Board, Plébiscite, Federal Court, No business case

Winnipeg Free Press, James Richardson International expected to profit from CWB death

Curt Vossen, president of James Richardson International Ltd., said he doesn't buy the prevailing negative tone of public discussion on the impact the change in legislation governing the CWB will have on the Winnipeg economy, where the wheat board has its 430-person headquarters.
Vossen told the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board this week that regardless of where one stands in the debate, the change will generate great opportunities for the Winnipeg ag business community.... James Richardson International is the second largest handler of Prairie agricultural commodities next to Regina-based Viterra, with about 25 per cent of the market.
Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press, July 16, 2011

Regina Leader-Post, Viterra Inc expected to cash in 
Viterra Inc., Saskatchewan’s largest company, is now among the top 50 biggest companies in the country, with $8.25 billion in revenues in 2010 — good for 47th place overall — according to the Financial Post 500.
Regina-based Viterra is also listed as Canada’s largest agriculture company, ahead of second-place Cargill Ltd. at $6.04 billion in revenues and the third-place Canadian Wheat Board at $5.15 billion in annual sales, the 2011 edition of the FP 500 said.
Viterra was formed from the merger of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Agricore United in 2007 following a hostile $1.8 billion takeover of Agricore led by then-Pool CEO Mayo Schmidt. Since then, the company has made a number of acquisitions, most recently the $1.4-billion takeover of ABB Grain Ltd. of Australia in 2009.
Bruce Johnstone, Leader-Post, July 13, 2011

Mayerthorpe Freelancer, Wheat board turns to farmers as feds plan its demise
Canadian Wheat Board is making a last-ditch attempt to save itself as the federal government moves to abolish its monopoly. The board will hold a plebiscite that will allow farmers to simply cast a yes or no vote on its continued existence ...
June 28 - CWB chair Allen Oberg announced a farmer plebiscite on the future of the CWB.
July 6 - MNP (accounting firm) named as the plebiscite administrator.
July 11 - Voting packages will be mailed to 68,000 farmers.
July 22 - Voting packages should be received by recipients; farmers who did not receive a package but believe they are eligible to vote should apply for a ballot.
August 8 - Deadline to apply for a ballot.
August 24 - Deadline to mail a completed ballot.
September 8-9 - Tabulation of results at MNP office.
September 9 - MNP to announce results.
Stuart Thomson, Mayerthorpe Freelancer, July 13

La Presse Canadienne, Commission du blé: trois provinces veulent la fin du monopole

L'Alberta, la Saskatchewan et la Colombie-Britannique ont annoncé vendredi leur appui au plan du gouvernement fédéral de mettre fin au monopole de la Commission canadienne du blé sur les ventes de blé et d'orge. Le ministre saskatchewanais de l'Agriculture, Bob Bjornerud, a déclaré que les fermiers dépensaient leur argent sur des terres et de la machinerie pour faire pousser des céréales, et qu'ils devraient donc pouvoir décider de la manière dont ils vendent celles-ci.

Saint John Telegraph-Journal, Ministers say supply management works 

"Our shared goal is to get more Canadian farmers' products on the dinner table here and around the world," federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Gerry Ritz said in St. Andrews Friday at the end of a conference of federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers. ...

While the ministers want to sell more Canadian farm products at home and abroad they support supply management programs that regulate markets for milk and other products. "As you know it's a system that works for farmers and is fully supported by the farmers," Ritz said, speaking about supply management.

(New Brunswick's Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Michael) Olscamp agreed. "If you talk to people in the beef sector, in the hog sector, and they are not under supply management, they are hurting," he said in an interview following the news conference. "The ones who smile are the ones who are protected by supply management." In New Brunswick, marketing boards manage production of milk, eggs, turkeys and chickens.
Derwin Gowan, Saint John Telegraph-Journal,  July 11, 2011

Mayerthorpe Freelancer, Smaller farms will be more likely subsumed 
Allan Oberg, Canadian Wheat Board chair, said the vote was necessary to allow farmers a chance to express their views about the imminent closure of the wheat board.

The wheat board says that the federal government isn't paying attention to the real needs of farmers, and that grain pricing and marketing - responsibilities of the board - trail far behind other concerns. According to the board's survey of producers "spiraling costs of farm inputs and grain transportation, and the challenges of extreme weather" are the top three concerns of farmers.

Oberg said that without the wheat board, smaller farms will be more likely to be subsumed by the larger farms, who use their size to negotiate better prices."We'll see more consolidation," said Oberg. The chair also warned that this was the last chance to save the board and the only chance during the process for farmers to register an opinion.
Stuart Thomson, Mayerthorpe Freelancer, July 13

Reuters, Government to look at regulating access to grain handlers

Canada is considering a request by the Canadian Wheat Board for regulated access to private grain handlers once the board loses its monopoly, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday, but he added that such access may not be enforceable.

The Wheat Board has no grain-handling and storage facilities or retained earnings and has asked Ottawa to give it regulated access at favorable rates and times to private handlers and capital, if it tries to compete in the open market.

"We're looking at all avenues moving forward. Certainly that is on the table," Ritz said in a conference call with reporters. "But these are private sector companies that offer services. I'm not sure that regulation could be enforceable but we'll take a look at all ideas that come forward."
Reuters, Rod Nickel, July 8, 2011 

Radio Canada, Plébiscite de la CCB : envoi imminent des bulletins de vote
Les bulletins de vote du plébiscite sur le monopole de la Commission canadienne du blé (CCB) seront envoyés la semaine prochaine à 68 000 producteurs de blé et d'orge des Prairies. Chaque enveloppe comprendra deux bulletins de vote : un pour le blé, l'autre pour l'orge.  Les producteurs auront jusqu'au 8 août pour prouver leur admissibilité au plébiscite. Pour être admissibles, les fermiers doivent avoir produit du blé, de l'orge ou les deux grains au cours des cinq dernières années.

Winnipeg Free Press, Where is the business case that says how this will be good for farmers?

Manitoba is the only western province not backing the federal government's plans to eliminate the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.
The CWB has its headquarters, with 430 employees, in Winnipeg, and wheat board shipments make up more than 90 per cent of the business at Manitoba's seaport, Churchill.

At an agriculture ministers' meeting in New Brunswick this week, the agriculture ministers from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan all expressed support for the change, which will come in legislation the federal government will introduce this fall.

 Manitoba agriculture minister Stan Struthers said "We've been clear we want (Ritz) to put a business case forward that says how this will be good for farmers," said Struthers. "He hasn't done that."
Winnipeg Free Press, Mia Rabson, July 9, 2011 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, An Innovative, Modern Agriculture Sector 

Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture met to discuss the future prospects and potential of the Canadian agriculture and food sector as a significant driver of the economy.

The Ministers agreed (except Ontario) that the next policy framework, Growing Forward 2, must help the agriculture industry capitalize on emerging market opportunities in dynamic and innovative ways - supported by world-class research and development, a new generation of farmers, efficient regulatory systems, and modern infrastructure. Building on the success and flexibility of the current policy approach, Ministers agreed to the principles outlined in the Saint Andrews Statement as a guide for officials in their collaboration with industry. The Statement lays out the vision of the next policy framework as a modern, coherent and integrated approach for a progressive sector confronting the challenges of a fast-paced, competitive global economy.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Marketwire, July 8, 2011

StarPhoenix, Farmers are entitled to vote on CWB

Over the past 100 years we have had five different models of the Canadian Wheat Board operating in Western Canada. ... The fifth model is the orderly marketer of today, which has provided extra money and stability to farmers since 1943 - with a change in structure that put farmers squarely in control in 1998. Those changes in 1998 also guaranteed western farmers they would have a vote on significant changes to the CWB - especially the kind of destructive changes the Harper government now proposes.

The Conservative government clearly has held out a false promise of a "dual market," and has no analysis or plan to put before farmers before it introduces legislation that will kill the world's largest and most successful marketer of wheat and barley.

Demand a clear, detailed explanation of how a weakened wheat board can survive when all similar boards have perished, and demand a vote that is guaranteed to farmers under Canadian law.
Stewart Wells, StarPhoenix, July 8, 2011
Wells is a farmer near Swift Current and a director of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Regina Leader-Post, What's Harper and co. afraid of?

The barrage of media releases from the three westernmost provinces and farm groups applauding the federal government's move to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk make it appear as though there is unanimity on this issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the majority of provincial governments in Western Canada, which represent the bulk of the wheat and barley produced in this country, support the move, that doesn't mean every province is singing from the Harper government's songsheet.

And even though supporters of the single desk, like the province of Manitoba and farm groups, like the NFU, seem to be in the minority, they may well reflect the majority of Western Canadian farmers who grow wheat and barley for human consumption.
Bruce Johnstone, Regina Leader-Post, July 9, 2011 

Regina Leader-Post, Canadian Wheat Board death would have major impact on short line railways 

Make no mistake. The stakes in this game of political football are huge. If the single desk goes, what will become of producer car loading sites? Producer cars - which allow farmers to deliver their grain directly to the CWB and bypass the grain companies' elevators and inland terminals - save farmers on average $1,200 per hopper car. If producer cars go, what happens to the branchlines the producer car loading sites are located on?

What happens to the shortline railroads that use the branchlines? What becomes the rural communities on branchlines served by shortline railroads?
Yet the Harper government has done nothing to justify its decision to remove the single desk - other than wrap itself in the flag of "marketing freedom.''
Bruce Johnstone, Regina Leader-Post, July 9, 2011 

StarPhoenix, Insult to farmers

John De Pape's notion (SP, June 24) that the federal government primarily is interested in providing export wheat and barley marketing freedom to producers is cynical, and an insult to the majority of the prairie farm community. After all, farmers consistently have elected eight out of 10 pro-board directors. Does that not make some kind of statement as to what farmers want?

The real issues not discussed by De Pape or Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz are the benefits that will flow to the multinational grain companies or to middlemen grain brokers from deregulating and dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk marketing. It will be open season on farmers.

Why would farmers give total free reign to the multinationals to grade, price and market their grains? These companies have no particular loyalty to Canada when it comes to their bottom line, and even less to farmers.
Food is a strategic commodity and instrument of trade in Canada's foreign policy. Why does the Harper government want to squander our sovereignty by transferring greater power to private multinationals?
StarPhoenix, Stuart Thiesson, July 7, 2011

Owen Sound Sun Times, NFU head opposes EU deal in the works
The president of the National Farmers Union says a proposed trade agreement with the European Union is not good for Canada. The Canadian government is currently negotiating a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union

"This agreement, while characterized as a trade agreement, is really about limiting the role of government to act in the public interest. It essentially penalizes governments if they do anything that could impact the profits of the world's largest corporations," Terry Boehm said in Walkerton Tuesday.

The current European position include severe restriction on the ability of farmers to save, reuse, exchange or sell seed stock. Boehm said the agreement would allow for precautionary seizure provisions to the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Farmers accused of having a patented gene in their crops or seed could lose their farms, crops, equipment and cash, simply for an alleged infringement.

"The expanded intellectual property rights enforcement tools would increase corporate control of our farms, increase seed costs and destroy farmers' autonomy," said Boehm.

Reuters, Wheat board hopes plebiscite will foil Ottawa's plans

The Canadian Wheat Board will hold a farmers' vote on the future of its marketing monopoly on western grain, in a last-ditch bid to stop Ottawa from opening up the trade to competition.

"Our preference would have been a fair and binding federal plebiscite," said wheat board chairman Allen Oberg, an Alberta farmer. "We now call on the government to listen to farmers and respect the results of this plebiscite."

But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday that no plebiscite can "trump the rights of those farmers who want to choose how they market their own grain."
Reuters, Rod Nickel,  June 29, 2011 

The Canadian Press, Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board takes Ottawa to court

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board say they're heading back to court to try to stop the federal government's latest move to strip the board of its monopoly.

The group of has filed papers in Federal Court seeking a judicial review of Ottawa's plan to amend or repeal the Canadian Wheat Board Act without consulting farmers first.

"We're just asking the government to follow the wording of the (Canadian Wheat Board) Act and let the producers decide," group spokesman Lyle Simonson, who farms near Swift Current, Sask., said Monday.

"The way the act is worded, and what we're asking, I think we have a very strong case. We're just asking the courts to uphold the wording of the act."
The Canadian Press, June 27, 2011

Guelph Mercury, Western farmers uneasy over abolition of wheat board

From the relative comfort of eastern Canada, it may be difficult to understand why people east of Manitoba should care about the federal government’s zeal to dismantle the western icon called the Canadian Wheat Board. But other than the weather, this is the biggest agricultural issue on the prairies, and maybe even in Canada.

Wheat is Canada’s largest and highest-value agricultural export. Since 1935, all western Canadian wheat sold abroad has been handled by the wheat board. That monopoly is referred to as a “single desk” approach to selling grain.

Proponents say one powerful organization representing the breadth of prairie farmers can do a better job of finding and servicing buyers than smaller groups of farmers, or individuals, or even grain companies. All profits earned by the board are returned directly to farmers, as opposed to corporate owners or shareholders.
Owen Roberts, Guelph Mercury, June 27, 2011

Guelph Mercury, How can government  defend dairy, poultry and eggs, but not wheat?

A big question, though, is whether Canada wants to lose another national icon. Interestingly, the federal government is fighting tooth and nail to defend farmers’ rights to sell dairy, poultry and eggs through marketing boards in Ontario and elsewhere. Our trading partners argue it’s unfair to have such boards; Ottawa counters by saying it’s part of our heritage, and leave us alone.

But wheat marketing is part of our heritage too. How can you defend dairy, poultry and eggs, but not wheat?

Wheat marketing has come up in other provinces. Ontario farmers decided several years ago to dismantle their wheat single desk. Quebec farmers chose to keep theirs. Shouldn’t prairie farmers have the same right to decide themselves what marketing structure they want?
Owen Roberts, Guelph Mercury, June 27, 2011

La Terre de chez nous, Les négociations avec l'Europe dans le dernier droit

Après sept séances de négociations depuis 2009, un accord global de libre-échange entre le Canada et l'Union européenne (UE) est à portée de main d'ici la fin 2011 ou durant la première moitié de 2012. La neuvième et dernière séance aura lieu en octobre, à Ottawa. 

Les agriculteurs canadiens auront-ils un véritable accès au marché européen de 500 millions d'habitants pour leur boeuf, leur blé et leur porc? "Cela va dépendre des échanges survenus dans d'autres secteurs comme les marchés publics, la propriété intellectuelle, etc. Il ne faut pas perdre de vue que nous recherchons un accord global équilibré et non un équilibre par secteur", a expliqué ( Chef de la section économique et commerciale de la délégation de l'UE au Canada, Maurizio Cellini ). Des barrières non tarifaires (périodes d'entrée, normes vétérinaires et d'inspection, etc.) limitent l'accès du boeuf et du porc canadiens au marché européen. "Le monopole de la Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) sur les achats de boissons alcoolisées limite les potentialités de vente de nos produits", a signalé M. Cellini, au sujet des monopoles et entreprises d'État, sans parler de la Commission canadienne du blé.

Après consultation de ses affiliés, l'Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) a signifié au ministre du Commerce international, Peter Van Loan, d'autres inquiétudes des agriculteurs quant à cet accord global. L'UPA trouve inconcevable que l'accès aux marchés soit discuté, alors que le soutien interne (aide de l'État) est exclu des pourparlers. 
La Terre de chez nous, Jean-Charles Gagné, le  23 juin 2011

Winnipeg Free Press, CWB works for farmers as a monopoly

Farmers who don't want to use the CWB shouldn't be forced to even if more than half of their colleagues do want to use it, (Minister Ritz) has said. Seems somewhat reasonable. Plus, if the CWB offering is so good, wouldn't farmers choose it anyway if given a choice?

However, the CWB believes it only works if it is a monopoly. Even a study released by the C.D. Howe Institute last week arguing against the monopoly acknowledged that a pool system works to get the best prices when there are the least number of competitors.

There are also lots of examples of people having to do something they might not want to when it comes to working, for example, joining a union, or buying into your company benefit plan.
Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press,  June 27, 2011

Owen Sound Sun Times, Miller back as ag chair

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller was re-elected chairman of the standing committee on agriculture and agrifood Tuesday. Miller said in a news release he's honoured and looks forward to working with committee members on issues that are important to Canadian farmers and agribusiness.
Owen Sound Sun Times,  June 22 2011

Le Point, Série sur l'alimentation : la flambée des prix du blé

« Depuis 7 ans, les prix du blé ont triplé, passant de 133 dollars à 413 dollars la tonne en mai 2011, même s'il y a eu parfois d'importantes variations, dont un sommet à 671 dollars, un record éphémère en février 2008 » Hugues Poulin a rapporté pour SRC Télévision - Le Téléjournal / Le Point le 21 juin 2011.

« Et surtout, ce qu'il faut dire, c'est que ce ne sont pas les agriculteurs qui en profitent le plus, de tout ça » a demandé Celine Galipeau l'animatrice du Point.

« Non, les grands gagnants justement, Céline, ce sont les grands spéculateurs, les grandes banques, les grands groupes financiers. Parce que, vous savez, le prix du blé produit et vendu au Canada, une fois qu'il arrive dans un autre pays, ça peut doubler, tripler »  a répondé Poulin.
SRC Télévision - Le Téléjournal / Le Point