Dear fellow producer:

The results are in, and the message from farmers is clear: the majority (62 per cent for wheat, 51 per cent for barley) want to retain the CWB single-desk marketing structure. Despite those results, the federal government says it will forge ahead with its plan to dismantle the single-desk.

As part of this plan, the government says it envisions a successor to the CWB that will be “strong and viable” in an open market. It is essential, then, for the government to offer their vision of how a new organization can successfully compete against huge multinational grain companies.

As you know, the CWB has no elevators, no port terminals, and no money. Each year, all net revenue is returned to farmers – the CWB does not retain any earnings. If the CWB is to start up as a new type of company and compete against giant multinational corporations, it will require some help getting off the ground.

We know this because the CWB has been studying potential future scenarios since 2005. Our board has examined over a dozen different models, and none of these scenarios comes close to offering the value of the current CWB.

After the May 2 federal election, we brought in the business advisory firm KPMG to review our existing scenario planning. We determined what a post-CWB organization would require to succeed, including start-up capital, government guarantees, and regulated access to country and port terminals.

Our board wrote the government to ask if they would commit to any of these needs, and to share their vision of how a successor organization can be “strong and viable” in an open market. We have yet to receive definitive answers to any of these critical questions.

The government has not shared any analysis – if any analysis has been done – regarding their ideas for a successor organization. Legislation to repeal the CWB Act is days or weeks away, and yet there is still no hard analysis, no careful consideration of the implications and no business case for moving forward.

On September 28, the government’s working group on the transition to an open market did release its report, but this is not a detailed analysis. Meeting farmers’ needs was not part of the group’s terms of reference, so it is hardly surprising that farmers are scarcely mentioned in their report. Confronting the very real challenges that deregulation will pose to farmers, the report recommends a “wait and see” approach, calling on the government to do little more than monitor problems and offers nothing in the way of solutions. There is very little to comfort those who were hoping that if the government is determined to remove the single-desk, they would be willing to provide the necessary support for any post-single-desk organization to have a fighting chance.

What we have heard is that the government is moving administration of wheat and barley cash advances for 2012-13 to the Canadian Canola Growers Association. The cash advance program is a federal program, and they have every right to select whichever administrator for it they would like. Interestingly, however, we were praised by government officials just weeks ago for the CWB’s efficiency and excellence in administering advances. Which begs the question: if the CWB was doing an exemplary job of administering the program, and the government is serious that they want a “strong and viable” CWB in an open market, why would they take this step?

Instead of answers that could lay the foundation for the future, we have heard a lot of unconstructive, anti-CWB rhetoric. It’s as if the government wants the CWB completely gone, but is trying to pin the blame for our demise on the board of directors.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the government continues to say one thing while doing another. This is a government that had previously promised to hold a plebiscite on wheat, but did not follow through. They promised they would consult farmers on the transition to an open market, but did not follow through.

It’s time that this government stopped its anti-CWB rhetoric and heard what farmers have to say. If you feel your voice is being ignored, contact Minister Ritz and your Member of Parliament to demand that the government listen to farmers. You can write to them at the House of Commons, or you can use the electronic form on our Web site at

Farmers have spoken. It’s time for this government to listen.

Allen Oberg
CWB chair
Forestburg, Alberta

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