Ballots due out next week for CWB plebiscite

Ballots are to be mailed to over 68,000 identified wheat and barley growers on the Prairies next week as the Canadian Wheat Board kicks off its non-binding plebiscite on its own future.

The board, which now operates the single marketing desk for wheat and barley grown on Canada’s Prairies, is scheduled to lose its mandatory marketing powers in August next year through federal legislation.

The CWB last week said it would conduct its own plebiscite on farmers’ wishes for or against the single desk, as the federal government has no plans to put its decision to a binding vote by Prairie grain growers.

The board on Wednesday announced it has contracted MNP (Meyers Norris Penny), the same accounting and business advisory firm that oversees farmer elections to the CWB’s board of directors, to manage the plebiscite.

Voting packages should arrive in farmers’ mailboxes by July 22, the CWB said. Farmers have until Aug. 8 to establish eligibility if they don’t automatically receive the voting package.

Completed ballots must then be postmarked by Aug. 24; MNP is expected to announce the vote results on Sept. 9.

“There are two plebiscite questions, one on barley and one on wheat,” MNP’s plebiscite co-ordinator Ian Craven said in a CWB release.

Farmers who have grown wheat in the past five crop years are eligible to vote on the future of the single desk for wheat, while farmers who have grown barley in the past five crop years are eligible to vote on the future of the single desk for barley, the board said. Those who have grown both in the past five crop years are eligible to vote on the future of each crop.

Producers with an active permit book in either the 2009-10 or 2010-11 crop years and who have delivered wheat or barley in the past five crop years (2006-07 to 2010-11) will automatically receive a ballot in the mail later this month, the board said.

Other Prairie farmers who have grown wheat or barley in the past five years may apply for a ballot through the plebiscite’s website.

The federal government’s decision not to conduct a farmer vote before deregulating the CWB is already the target of a suit filed by a farm group, Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, in a Winnipeg court last week.

The farmer group contends that section 47.1 of the federal Canadian Wheat Board Act requires a grower plebiscite and consultation with the CWB’s board of directors before any crops can be added to, or subtracted from, the CWB’s single desk.

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