Ritz pledges $350M for CWB transition costs

The bills for transitioning the Canadian Wheat Board from a single-desk wheat and barley marketer into a private-sector grain pooler will be paid in part through a one-time, nine-figure shot of federal funding.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz dropped into Winnipeg Thursday to announce a "one-time injection" of almost $350 million to help cover the CWB in its transition to a "competitive grain marketing organization."

Ritz’s pledge follows the federal government’s promise last October to "assist with funding for reorganizing costs related to the removal of the monopoly" when it introduced Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which ends the CWB’s single desk effective Aug. 1.

"Positive change takes commitment and resources," Ritz said in a release. "We have delivered the support necessary to ensure a smooth transition."

The $350 million is to "help defray" transition-related costs such as pension and post-employment benefits and severance for laid-off CWB staff.

CWB officials were quoted in news reports last month as saying that by the end of this year, over 300 employees who are or were with the board as of early last year will either have left or been laid off.

About 100 employees are expected to remain by the end of 2012.

Computer systems, decommissioning costs and the winding-up of the CWB’s final statutory pool accounts will also be funded in part through this payment, the government said.

"The pools for current and future years will continue to be used to pay for the normal operations of the CWB," the government said.

Related stories:
Tories’ bill maps out endgame for CWB’s single desk, Oct. 18, 2011
Feds set up interim Prairie grain research checkoff, May 22, 2012
World weather boosts PROs for CWB’s ‘highly sold’ pools, June 29, 2012

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