Canadian Wheat Board mass meetings, 17,000 telephone town hall

The Canadian Wheat Board is now holding mass meeting across the prairies. It held a telephone town hall on Aug. 3 with over 17,000 farmers. On Sept. 9 the CWB will announce the results of a plebiscite which looks like it will express strong support  for the CWB as it exists.

CWB, It's your decision

The federal government plans to remove the single desk on wheat and barley by August 1, 2012, without a vote by farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board Act states that any changes to wheat and barley marketing need to be approved through a farmer plebiscite. Polls show that three-quarters of Prairie farmers want to decide this question themselves.

The facts are clear. The CWB is controlled by farmers. It's paid for by farmers. Farmers want to decide its future.
The Canadian Wheat Board 

CWB, Plebiscite deadline is fast approaching

Farmers have just over one week left to vote in the CWB plebiscite. "Only a few days remain to cast a ballot," said plebiscite coordinator Ian Craven of MNP, a chartered accounting and business advisory firm. "Prairie grain producers interested in having a say on the future of the CWB are encouraged to return their completed ballot."

Ballots must be postmarked by Wednesday, August 24 to be admissible. Ballots must be returned to MNP in the accompanying official postage-paid envelope -- ballots returned in any other envelope are inadmissible. MNP will tabulate the results on September 8 and 9. Results will be announced September 9. For more information on how to vote, call MNP at 1-877-780-VOTE (8683) or visit
CWB, August 15, 2011

SRC Manitoba, Fin du monopole de la CCB : le gouvernement commande un audit

Le fédéral s'apprête à étudier l'impact financier de sa décision de mettre fin au monopole sur la vente de blé et d'orge de la Commission canadienne de blé (CCB). Cette révélation a engendré d'autres accusations que la décision du gouvernement, qui pourrait modifier le prix payé aux fermiers pour leurs grains, a été prise plus par principe que sur base de preuves.

« Cela met en évidence tout ce que nous avons dit à propos d'une décision prise strictement sur base d'une idéologie conservatrice », a indiqué jeudi le ministre de l'Agriculture du Manitoba, Stan Struthers.  Stan Struthers et d'autres défenseurs de la CCB arguent qu'elle ne pourra pas survivre dans un marché ouvert sans ligne de chemin de fer, silos à grains ou d'autres grosses infrastructures. Il lui faudra acheter ces équipements ou payer leur accès à la concurrence, des compagnies céréalières qui n'auraient aucune raison d'aider la commission, selon eux.
SRC Manitoba le vendredi 12 août 2011 

SRC Saskatchewan, CCB : rencontres sur les conséquences de la fin du monopole

De nombreux agriculteurs ont mis de côté leur machinerie lundi soir pour discuter, à Regina, de l'avenir de la Commission canadienne du blé (CCB). Environ 300 personnes ont entendu des directeurs élus de la CCB décrire les conséquences probables du démantèlement du comptoir unique annoncé par Ottawa. Ces derniers affirment que l'organisation ne pourrait pas survivre à la fin du monopole de mise en marché du blé et de l'orge. Ils disent que les fermiers devront alors faire eux-mêmes les démarches pour vendre leurs grain, ce qui pourrait entrâiner une augmentation des coûts.

Selon Edward Sagan, qui cultive ses terres depuis environ 50 ans à Melville, la CCB vend des grains à 70 différents pays. Il soutient préférer se concentrer sur ses récoltes plutôt qu'essayer d'imaginer où il devrait vendre son grain. « Nous voulons que la CCB demeure pour continuer à travailler pour les agriculteurs comme elle fait depuis 75 ans », déclare Gilbert Ferré, un fermier de Zenon Park qui appuie le monopole de la CCB.
SRC Saskatchewan,  le 9 août 2011

CWB: Federal government in violation of Canadian Wheat Board Act
Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act
Central Plains Herald-Leader, QMI Agency, Glen Hallick, Aug 13 201

Bloomberg, Canada Spring Wheat Yields Rise as Dry Weather Boosts Prospects

Spring wheat yields in Manitoba and Saskatchewan may improve as hot weather dried up flooded areas and created “optimal crop-development conditions,” the Canadian Wheat Board said in a report today. Floods that delayed seeding of winter wheat were followed by hot weather in July that dried flooded areas and provided sun and warmth needed to promote crop growth, according to the report. Spring wheat is now more developed than earlier planted varieties, the wheat board said.
Bloomberg, Tony C. Dreibus,  Aug 12, 2011 

Winnipeg Free Press, Many faces of the CWB debate

From the grizzled veteran who's seen many a crop, to cocky smartphone-toting 20-somethings, the debate over the Canadian Wheat Board has many faces. … While many of those who are most adamant they want to be free of the board's interference in their marketing operate big farms, there are also large-scale farmers who passionately support the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk. Likewise, not everyone who favours the board's single desk for selling their wheat, barley and durum is over the hill. A more accurate defining line between the two solitudes might be their world view.

As these two faces duke it out over the government's plans to eliminate the single desk, one face that isn't well-represented in the debate so far is the taxpayer. For the most part, the CWB doesn't cost the rest of us anything; it's paid for by farmers. That could change. A government order winding down the world's largest wheat and barley marketing company by Aug. 1, 2012 could prove very expensive indeed.
Winnipeg Free Press, Laura Rance,  Aug 13 2011

Canadian Business, End in sight for the wheat board

According to the report, Pulling the Plug on Monopoly Power by Richard Pedde and Al Loyns, market power is a function of “the concentration of buyers and sellers in the relevant market, and the availability of substitute products in that market.” In the case of the wheat board, the relevant market therefore is world production, and the key question is the share of that production that is sold through the CWB. As they argue, when it comes to wheat, Canada’s share of the global export market for wheat has fallen to less than 14% today from 25% in 1962. The decline is even sharper for barley, falling to less than 10% today from its peak of 50% in the early 1980s. Pedde and Loyns conclude if the CWB ever exerted pricing power in world markets, “it is unlikely or impossible that it should do so now.”
Canadian Business,  Andrew Potter, August 14, 2011

Postmedia News, Auditors sought to crunch closing costs at Wheat Board

A posting on a government contracting website shows Agriculture Canada is looking for an auditor to crunch the costs associated with closing the so-called "single-desk" marketing agency. It announces the government intends to seek an auditor to check the books and "provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the dissolution or winding up of the CWB after the final pooling periods (expected to be July 31, 2012)."  The contract value for the auditing work is projected at $500,000 to $1 million and only pre-qualified suppliers are eligible to bid on the work.
Postmedia News, Glen McGregor, August 12 

Souris Plaindealer, When the Wheat Board went down Down Under

In late 2010 the North American fertilizer company Agrium bought the Australian Wheat Board, even though it had no experience in selling grain. At the time Agrium said it would evaluate how things were going and decide shortly whether to keep the international grain marketing side. Meanwhile, it had acquired the largest farm input retailer in Australia, worth nearly $2 billion in annual sales. Less than two weeks later, Agrium announced its deal with Cargill for the international grain marketing business. The sale passed the Australian foreign investment regulatory and competition bureau reviews in May 2011. Australian farm organizations tried to get the government to put some conditions on the sale to Cargill –- such as transparent freight rates and protection of the pools -- but they were unsuccessful.

In three short years Australia's 40,000 wheat farmers went from running their own grain marketing system, selling virtually all of Australia's wheat (12% of world wheat production, worth about $5 billion) on their own behalf to being mere customers of Cargill's, one of the world's largest agribusiness corporations, which is privately-owned and based in the United States,  Since 2006 the AWB's share of Australia's wheat sales has dropped to 23% with 25 other companies in the market, all looking to make money on the spread between purchase and sale prices. When the AWB had its single desk power Australian wheat could command premiums of over $99/tonne over American wheat, but by December 2008 it had dropped to a discount of $27/tonne below US wheat.
Cathy Holtslander, Source: Special to the Souris Plaindealer, Fri Aug 12 2011 

The Canadian Press, Large number of farmers oppose government plan to gut Canadian Wheat Board

DAUPHIN, Man. - A large number of farmers who showed up at the latest Canadian Wheat Board information meeting in Manitoba appear to support the current structure of the organization. About 300 people attended the fourth of seven meetings held in Dauphin Thursday night. Board director Bill Toews says the majority of people attending the meetings are speaking out against the federal government's plan to dismantle the board's single-desk selling system.
The Canadian Press,  August 12, 2011

The Canadian Press, Federal government will spend up to $1 million on audit of wheat board assets

The federal government is preparing to study the financial impact of a decision it has already taken to strip the Canadian Wheat Board of its monopoly on Prairie wheat and barley sales. The revelation has led to more accusations that the government's move, which could alter the prices farmers are paid, has been driven more by dogmatic principle than by evidence.

"This underscores everything we've been saying about this being based strictly on the Conservatives' ideology," Manitoba NDP Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers said Thursday. "You would have thought, if this was based on any kind of a plan, that (the study) would have been done by now and would have formed part of their decision-making."
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press, August 11, 2011

Winnipeg Free Press,  Hundreds pack meeting outside city

The atmosphere Wednesday evening in the main hall of the Oak Bluff Recreation Centre, just southwest of Winnipeg, was filled with the frustration of people who felt that higher powers are pushing forward, regardless of what they have to say. It was standing room only as hundreds of farmers discussed the future of the Canadian Wheat Board at a meeting organized by the single-desk marketer of wheat and barley. The Harper government intends to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on western Canadian wheat and barley, effective Aug. 1, 2012.

Dozens arrived at the meeting early and stood outside the recreation centre doors with signs holding messages like "Respect farmers, respect our vote," "Single desk is best" and "Farmer majority supports CWB." During the meeting, Canadian Wheat Board executives gave presentations on why the decision contravenes legislation that established the board, and why the board gives farmers both the best price for their grain and imposes the lowest costs. Chief operating officer Ward Weisensel talked for 20 minutes, but he seemed largely to be preaching to the converted.

One man rose to speak after Weisensel was done: "I'm just up here to say that if we're doing any negotiating with the government on how the wheat board is going to look after this -- there is no wheat board without the single desk and the only negotiating we should be doing with them is they better pick up the tab for what's left after the board's gone," he said. The room broke into applause.
William Burr, Winnipeg Free Press,  Aug 11 2011

Moncton Times & Transcript, Gathering honouring R.B. Bennett planned

Jordan Grondin took on a Herculean task when he set out to right what he perceived was a wrong, denying the only New Brunswick-born prime minister the recognition he deserves. The Albert County teenager has been spearheading a campaign to raise 1,000 names on a petition to present to Parliament in October calling for a life-sized statue of R.B. Bennett to be erected in Ottawa in his memory.

The measures he helped put in place while prime minister greatly benefited the country but not quickly enough. The voters wanted to see immediate improvements to their lives, (Donald Alward, curator at the Albert County Museum)  suggested. It's ironic that he created the Bank of Canada, yet his image isn't on any currency, said Alward. Bennett also laid the groundwork for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Wheat Board, among other successes.
Moncton Times & Transcript, von Gauvin, August 11

The Canadian Press, Farmers debating future of Canadian Wheat Board

Hundreds of Prairie farmers left their fields Monday and some picked up placards that read "Single desk is the best" and "Our board, our business." They went to a meeting in Regina on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.  …

Edward Sagan, who has been farming in Melville, Sask., for about 50 years, said ending the board's monopoly will hurt his bottom line. "I will have less and less money in my pocket," he said. Sagan noted that the wheat board sells to 70 different countries. He said he would rather focus on growing crops instead of trying to figure out where to market his grain. "I don't have to sit beside a computer and decide who pays me the most money and all that. I sell my grain to the wheat board and they do the rest. They do the marketing for me."
The Canadian Press,  Aug 9, 2011

Ontario Farmer, Prairie wheat plans still a fairy tale

The Harper government, soon after it came to power in 2006, put together a hand-picked panel of supporters who want to see the demise of single desk marketing of wheat and barley.  The panel's mandate was to come up with a plan for moving towards a "dual market". Its conclusion, after months of study, was that the CWB would end up as a small, farmer-owned cooperative that would be stuck trying to beg and borrow space from the grain companies with primary elevator and port facilities. The work that the CWB's board of directors has commissioned internally suggests much the same result.

So what the Minister and Mr. Vandervalk, the president of the Grain Growers of Canada, call "defeatism" is actually nothing more than pragmatism and common sense. Grain producers remember only too well how we were promised that the elimination of the Crow Rate was going to drive value-added processing and increased investment across the Prairies. Guess what? It never happened.

Instead, our grain market ing and transportation costs have been driven higher and the quality of rail service has gotten worse. As a business person, I can say unequivocally that I have yet to see a scenario that demonstrates how the CWB could be a strong and viable entity in an open market environment. I would be doing a grave disservice to the grain producers of Western Canada, whom I've been elected to represent, if I pretended that I had.
Ontario Farmer,  Allen Oberg. Chair, CWB board of directors Forestburg, Alberta, Aug 9 2011

CWB, Farmers support research in wheat breeding, disease resistance

Research into early-maturing wheat varieties, quick-adapting breeding programs, protected seed pricing and wheat disease resistance is being supported by western Canadian farmers through the 2011 CWB postgraduate awards program. The research projects, being conducted in agriculture faculties at western Canadian universities, all focus on areas of great importance to the success of Prairie wheat farming into the future.

"By supporting these researchers, we help ensure that farmers will be able to continue to produce wheat varieties that are highly desired by customers and competitive in the international marketplace," said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB's producer-controlled board of directors. "The pressures of weather and disease must be continually combated to keep Prairie producers as profitable as possible."
CWB,  August 8, 2011

Arab News, Canadian envoy lauds progressive trade ties

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Canada, which have a long history of trade in commodities particularly wheat and barley, have set out a new vision of bilateral cooperation in agriculture sector.  “The Canadian exports of wheat and barley are anticipated to witness increase in the years to come,” said Richard Dubuc, charge d’affaires at the Canadian Embassy, here Saturday.

Dubuc said that the relations between Ottawa and Riyadh had been progressively growing across many sectors, particularly trade in agricultural commodities. He pointed out that “Canada exported about two million tons of wheat to Riyadh in 2009-10.” The diplomat gave an overview of the Saudi-Canadian ties with special reference to the strength of Canadian banks. Referring to the possibility to boost wheat exports to the Kingdom, he said that wheat was by far Canada’s biggest crop and the biggest agricultural export by volume and value.
Arab News, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Aug 7, 2011

Alan Oberg, Keeping it real, keeping it simple

One of the things I’ve learned in farm politics and farm organizations is that it is easy for any discussion to get drowned out by those who shout the loudest.  That’s why it was so refreshing to take part Wednesday night in a telephone town hall with over 17,000 farmers from across Western Canada.  

I had the chance to hear from people who were engaged, interested and wanted to have some serious discussions about the CWB.   Many had different opinions than I do on the CWB single desk and the viability of the CWB in a dual market.  There were also producers who had very specific concerns about the impact of removing the single desk on their livelihoods and on the communities in which they live.
Alan Oberg, August 5, 2011

Star-Phoenix, Rural lifeline

 The CWB offers a number of advantages. Through price pooling it protects producers from abrupt price shifts. Farmers don't have to deliver their wheat exactly at the peak. If we lose the single desk goes we will also lose producer car loading sites. Those producer cars allow farmers to bypass grain companies' elevators and save themselves $1,200 per hopper car.

What will happen to them and the communities along those branch lines once the board is gone? Grain company and railroad competition will fall, the freight revenue cap will disappear, and less value will be returned to farmers. These changes are irreversible.

We can imagine a modern feudal system with farmers at the mercy of multinational corporations who'll decide what to grow and how much to grow. There will be fewer small and medium farming operations and small rural communities, with their schools, hospitals, community centres, will disappear. One could drive through Canada and find virtually no inhabitants.
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Ken Ray, August 6, 2011 

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association,  Open Market Outperforms CWB  

Prices available to farmers in the U.S. open market over the past crop year were once again significantly greater than the returns western Canadian farmers will receive under the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) monopoly. The price differentials ended up costing prairie farmers about $500 million on their 2010 spring and winter wheat production, and a further $190 million on durum.

The final return for the CWB’s flagship wheat class (1 CWRS 13.5% protein) in the 2010/11 crop year just ended, basis Saskatchewan, is projected to be Cdn $27.70 per tonner or 75 cents per bushel below returns that were available to northern U.S. farmers over the same time period. The price differential on durum wheat is even more stark. The final CWB pool return for milling quality durum (1 CWAD, 13.0% protein), basis Saskatchewan, is projected to be Cdn $63.66 per tonne or an astonishing $1.73 per bushel below the average price available to U.S. farmers.

“The magnitude of these price differences gives an indication of the tremendous benefits we’ll see when we move to an open market one year from now,” says Kevin Bender, President of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. “The open market has consistently provided farmers with better returns than those offered under the CWB monopoly.”
Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, August 3, 2011

SRC Manitoba, Les agriculteurs reçoivent leur trousse pour se prononcer sur la Commission canadienne du blé

Les 68 000 agriculteurs des Prairies reçoivent leur trousse pour se prononcer sur l'avenir du guichet unique de la Commission canadienne du blé. Le plébiscite, qui aura lieu le mois prochain sous la direction d'une firme indépendante, demande aux agriculteurs de blé et d'orge de préciser s'ils veulent maintenir le guichet unique ou le remplacer un système de marché libre. Les agriculteurs ont jusqu'au 24 août pour faire parvenir leur bulletin de vote par la poste.
SRC Manitoba,  le 23 juillet 2011