(Acme, Alberta)  Minister Ritz joined long time opponent of the Wheat Board, Matt Sawyer on his farm near Acme, Alberta where we can be confident he promised a small group of true believers that more value added plants like the one proposed the previous week by Alliance Grain Traders (AGT) were just around the corner, if only the Wheat Board was not in the way.

In fact the plant developer indicated the demise of the CWB’s single desk factored into the proposed pasta and pulse plant expansion. He is reported to have said “That is a critical element of our investment decision. It is one of the elements that made this announcement imminent. We would never set up a venture anywhere in the world where we could not originate the raw material for our production directly from farmers.”

“I found those statements interesting especially since no reporter asked why so many others buy from the CWB without any apparent problems” observed Bill Gehl chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.

A diligent reporter would have found Ritz did not mention that AGT’s legal filings with the stock exchange explicitly state they intend to increase profits by paying farmers less for their grain.    On page nine of their Annual Information form filed in March 30, 2010 the company says:  Margin erosion is combated by negotiating lower prices from growers, negotiating better freight rates, and charging higher end client prices.”  (Emphasis added)

  “I’m surprised not a single reporter asked either the Prime Minister or Minister Ritz why farmers should subsidize processors by destroying our Wheat Board” Gehl said.

“I’m also disappointed that not a single reporter has asked Minister Ritz or the Prime Minister if they are concerned that shares in Alliance Grain Traders increased in value. Is this just normal or did someone use their inside information to profit from what amounts to a promotional visit by the Prime Minister?”

Minister Ritz’s host, Matt Sawyer wrote in the September 2011 issue of Barley Country, published by the Alberta Barley Commission and circulated to Alberta barley producers, “For a number of years, the Alberta Barley Commission has had a neutral stance on market choice, knowing our members are divided on the issue.” (Emphasis added)

“This is surprising” Gehl said, “because the Alberta Barley Commission spent several hundred thousand dollars of Alberta producer’s money on a failed court challenge to the Wheat Board so Mr. Sawyer’s claim of their neutrality makes it appear that he does not know the facts about his organization.”

In his May 31, 2010 testimony before the Commons Agriculture Committee in reference to the Wheat Board, Mr. Sawyer also suggested that:  “to align yourself with a company is what I would like to see as a start”.

Gehl asked:  “Does he really want to sacrifice his independence and align himself with companies whose business plan is to pay farmers less for their product?”

Gehl went on to question: “How can Minister Ritz and our Prime Minister see any of this as a good thing for farmers?  And then let’s not forget their refusal to support a rail costing review. Apparently, they are not even concerned about the huge cost of transportation which both farmers and value added businesses like AGT face on the prairies.”

Gehl observed “it looks like Harper and Ritz will say anything, and do anything to destroy our Wheat Board. They don’t seem to care whether it helps or hurts farmers, value added businesses, or the families that depend on them.”

Gehl concluded by saying “Our Wheat Board is a part of our western Canadian heritage and it represents the last countervailing power farmers have in a market controlled by no more than five transnational corporations. The elimination of the Board is a political surrender by the Federal government to international business interests without considering the national implications for farmers and international implications for the country. This whole move to destroy the Wheat Board is contrary to the existing law and defies the basic democratic vote farmers just had on our organization.”

Comments are closed.