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And the CWB plebiscite will tell us…..what?

I am not sure what
the point of the recently announced Canadian Wheat Board’s own, non-binding
plebiscite on the question of an open market will prove, other than it might
allow some people to go to bed at night saying “see, I told you so.”

There is a good
chance, as this vote is tallied, that 50 per cent plus, of permit book holders
may support the CWB monopoly for marketing wheat and export barley.

However, the federal
Conservative government has the authority and obviously the will to remove the
Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and I don’t see Minister Ritz “blinking” over the
process that has already been started.

Some might view my
comments as being anti-Canadian Wheat Board and they are not. I have no grudge
with the CWB, what so ever. Never sold them a bushel of wheat and never will.

I think people can
argue the economics of monopoly vs. open market six ways from Sunday, but in
the end it comes down to a philosophical decision — do you want someone marketing
your grain, or not.

I am not
anti-Canadian Wheat Board. Many good producers I know prefer dealing with the
CWB. At the same time, I do support or understand the rights and interests of
those producers who do want complete marketing choice. And why not? We are

talking about wheat here, for god’s sake. If you plant the seed it comes out of
the ground just like dozens of other agricultural commodities.

Western Canadian
farmers apparently needed help marketing grain 75 years ago, things have
changed, and now a good percentage of producers are saying “thanks, we can do
it ourselves, now.” I have heard many stories over the years of adult farmers,
sometimes frustrated, because they couldn’t make changes in their farming or
business practices until dad retired or died. Is there some similarity here?

And I do believe in
democracy too. One man, one vote – or in this case one permit book, one vote,
but I am not smart enough to properly define the difference where that
“democracy” fails in this situation. Everyone’s vote counts, yes. But, in an
extreme example, if I have one producer like Larry Ruud and One Earth Farms and
he’s seeding 150,000 acres of wheat this year, he may have one permit book.

With a 40 bushel yield his business could produce six million bushels of wheat.
Somewhere in my logic he should have just as much (and perhaps more) say in how
his crop is marketed than a guy down the road growing 1,000 acres of wheat
producing 40,000 bushels.

Both these producers
should be left to market their crops whichever way they see fit, but regardless
of size disparity, one doesn’t have the right to tell the other what to do.

Here are a couple
more comments I received from readers on the CWB issue:

Vicki from
Saskatchewan writes: “I
 no longer care about
the arguments, I simply want my freedom.”

And here is an email
I received from CWB District 2 director Jeff Nielsen who farms at Olds,
Alberta. He was in Regina recently for the Farm Progress Show and was among
those CWB staff and directors working at the CWB booth. He is commenting on my
June 21 blog “the tribe has spoken”.

 Jeff writes: 

“ Great blog on the
current CWB “why bother” fiasco, I was at the breakfast in Regina, unaware of
our petition, and not completely surprised with Allen’s (Oberg) comments, yet
the audience was packed with opposition party members, both federal and
provincial, and of course the NFU, CWCA, FCWB. He spoke his heart and personal
convictions to the crowd and they loved it.

I worked the booth at
the show for  a few hours, found that interesting, had some good debates
with a few, and was called names by some and some great conversations with
others on why not move forward.

We do, I believe,
have that ability, and we have or perhaps had the upper hand with government in
designing the new entity, yet that ability to be the layers of a new foundation
perhaps is quickly eroding.

Thanks again for the

Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at
[email protected]



About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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