In mid December, Canada’s Governor General signed into law Bill C-18 which orders sweeping changes to the marketing of Western Canada’s wheat and barley. Bill C-18, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, passed third and final reading in the Senate December 15 by a vote of 51-33, after the Conservatives invoked closure to halt debate and order the final votes.
Bill C-18 is a package of legislative amendments that will strip the CWB of its single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley and eventually repeal the CWB Act, to allow the board to be either privatized or wound down.
The bill also allows for Prairie farmers to immediately begin forward contracting of wheat and barley sales for delivery after Aug. 1, 2012, and for the immediate buying and selling of futures contracts for Prairie wheat and barley with delivery after that date.
The bill’s passage comes in the wake of a court challenge filed by the CWB’s eight remaining farmer-elected directors, asking that C-18 be invalidated. Once the bill received royal assent, the CWB dropped the challenge, however the eight former directors continued with it. As of late December, Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench rejected a request to immediately suspend implementation of the law. Judge Shane Perlmutter set new hearings for January 17 and 18, 2012, on whether to suspend the law while he decides on the broader question of whether to strike the law down. Perlmutter declined a request to suspend the law until this month’s hearings.
Until Aug. 1, 2012, the government continues to prohibit deliveries of board wheat or barley for export or human consumption to anyone other than the CWB. Only the CWB, or those with CWB export licenses, may export board wheat or barley until then. After Aug. 1, 2012, however, export licenses will no longer be required and Prairie growers will be able to directly arrange deliveries with, and deliver wheat or barley to, any domestic or export buyer. †