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CWB needs to realize “the tribe has spoken”

Canadian Wheat Board chair Allan Oberg may need a trip to
the woodshed to help him move forward with his thinking on CWB reform, rather
than dwell on the 75-year-old past.

I didn’t hear Oberg’s speech to Canadian Wheat Board
“supporters” at the Farm Progress Show in Regina last week, but I did watch his
nine-minute media question and answer period a few minutes later. It can be
viewed on-line at realagriculture.com

The fact is, following the May 2 federal election the
question now facing farmers and the board is not whether there should be a dual
marketing system for Canadian wheat, but what role will the Canadian Wheat
Board play in a new open marketing structure?

Oberg’s main interest appears to be in maintaining the
status quo, somehow turning back the political clock, running some sort of Hail
Mary pass that will stop the process that has already been set in motion. And I
don’t see that happening.

When the chairman suggests the dual marketing question
should be put to a vote of producers, my reaction is for god’s sake, how much
more debate and discussion does this topic need? It has been an issue for the
25 years that I have been talking to farmers and I dare say it was coffee shop
discussion long before that.

I may not have the highest germ test in the seed batch,

especially when it comes to marketing issues, but I believe there are a couple
of realities here.

First, the sun will come up tomorrow. And second, Western
Canadian farmers will be growing and marketing wheat 20, 30 and 50 years from
now whether the Canadian Wheat Board exists or not.

With the results of the federal election clearly based on a
platform that included Canadian Wheat Board reform, this discussion is over. I
believe the board now has one of three choices — lead, follow or get out of the
way.

I haven’t heard anyone say the board should be dismantled.
In fact, it is just the opposite. Politicians, economists and marketing
specialist have all said they see a system where the board can contribute its
expertise in a valuable role in new open market. It will be a different role,
but still a valuable role, that could protect the interests of producers who
prefer board services.

There should be a whole team of people working for the board
with expertise in marketing, price pooling, grain quality, processing,
production and weather. If that expertise cannot be reconfigured into some new
marketing structure in an open market, it will be due to a lack of will and not
a lack of opportunity.

I would hate to think at such an important juncture of
Canadian agriculture that human defects such as fear, ego, false pride,
self-centeredness and closed-mindedness would imperial this process of change.
If there is one thing Western Canadian farmers have done over the past 50 years
is adapt to changes in crop production and marketing. What is different now?
Somehow canola gets from a seed in the ground to a four-litre jug of oil in my
pantry and I don’t see any canola marketing board. 

I get the impression the CWB frigate is sailing into harbor
with the captain on the bridge declaring this vessel cannot be retrofitted
  we are nothing without the
monopoly. Is the board prepared to sink this ship with all hands on deck?

There is a risk that might happen. But, the current board
has to keep in mind if the ship does go down, it will be its hand on the self
destruct button and not the hand of the federal government, and not the
collective hand of farmers who simply want the chance to market their own
grain.

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

 

 

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About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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