Farmers send politics-as-usual to CWB board table

Prairie wheat and barley growers won’t see much if any shift in the tenor of the single-desk debate in the new year where the Canadian Wheat Board’s board of directors is concerned.

Eligible farmers in the CWB’s five odd-numbered voting districts sent three incumbents and two new directors to the Winnipeg-based marketing organization’s boardroom, according to election results released Sunday.

The refilled board of directors officially takes office Dec. 31 but will assemble Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Winnipeg for its first scheduled meeting in Winnipeg.

“As the successful candidates, we will sit at the board table of the CWB as the voice of farmers,” Allen Oberg, the incumbent for District 5 (northeastern Alberta/northern Saskatchewan) since 2002 and board chairman since June, said in a CWB release Sunday.

“This democratic election process is integral to the principle of farmer control over our marketing organization,” he said. “We are committed to upholding the interests of our fellow producers.”

According to a release Sunday from the CWB’s election administrator, accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny, the overall ballot response rate for this election was 41.3 per cent, down from 51.5 per cent in the same five districts in 2006. The response rate in the board’s five even-numbered districts in 2008, by comparison, was 52.8 per cent.

The CWB elections use a preferential ballot system, allowing farmers to rank candidates in order of preference. Where no one candidate in a field of three or more wins a majority as farmers’ first choice, counting then goes to a second ballot or further.

Specific numbers weren’t immediately available Sunday night, but Oberg, who farms at Forestburg, Alta., defeated one challenger, Vicki Dutton of Paynton, Sask., on the first ballot in the mail-in vote. Dutton is a director with the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association.

The incumbent director for District 1 (northwestern and northern Alberta/northeastern B.C.) since 2006, Henry Vos of Fairview, Alta. also defeated just one challenger, Dan Gauthier of Donnelly, Alta., on the first ballot. Gauthier has served on the boards of the Canola Council of Canada and Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Among the five directors named Sunday, Vos is the only one considered to be pro-deregulation in his views on the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley. The other four, by their statements before the election, are considered pro-single-desk.

In District 3 (southern Alberta/southwestern Saskatchewan), where the incumbent and previous board chairman Larry Hill had to step aside due to term limits, votes had to be counted down to the third ballot before Stewart Wells of Swift Current, Sask. was named the winner Sunday.

Wells, who benefited from a high public profile as a former president of the National Farmers Union, defeated Brian Otto of Warner, Alta., Brett Meinert of Shaunavon, Sask. and Lynn Jacobson of Enchant, Alta.

Otto is president of the Western Barley Growers Association, Meinert is the current vice-chairman of South West Terminal and Jacobson chairs the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission.

The incumbent District 7 (east-central Saskatchewan) director since 2006, Kyle Korneychuk of Pelly, Sask., also won on the first ballot, defeating Terry Youzwa of Nipawin, Sask., a former director with UGG and Agricore United and current director with the Canola Council of Canada.

The directorship in District 9 (western and northern Manitoba/southeastern Saskatchewan) was also open as incumbent Bill Nicholson reached his term limit and stepped aside.

Former Agricore board member John Sandborn of Benito, Man. won against Manitoba Canola Growers Association past-president Ernie Sirski of Dauphin and former Manitoba Association of School Boards president Garry Draper of Lenore, on a second ballot.

Oberg, in the CWB’s release Sunday, congratulated all 13 candidates for their efforts and involvement in the voting process.

“The CWB works for farmers. Its activities have a direct impact on producers’ finances and business operations. I look forward to working with the other successful candidates to ensure farmers are always put first.”

Directorships in the CWB’s five even-numbered districts (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) next go to a vote in 2012. The remaining five members of the CWB’s 15-person board, including its CEO Ian White, are appointees of the federal government.

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