A company called Ipsos Reid has released a survey somewhat grandiosely titled BASF – Wheat and Canola Study claiming to show a “vast majority” of western farmers see the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board as beneficial.  Great headline, but not so fast!

First, they surveyed only 401 self-selected people from Ipsos’ “producer panel.”  This is a fundamental flaw.  Only a truly random sampling coupled with a set of unbiased questions can give a reasonable indication of public sentiment.  A self-selected panel is essentially useless for this purpose.

Since only 401 people were surveyed, a more realistic headline would be “100% of the combined memberships of the Western Canadian Barley Growers Associations and Western Canadian Wheat Growers Associations (both long standing anti-CWB groups) along with some of their relatives like the end of the CWB.”

Yet the majority of their respondents still identified the most important problem with ending the CWB as “revenue certainty and risk management.”  In other words, getting paid and getting swindled are the big problems for farmers without the Wheat Board.  Talk about stating the obvious!

How is this consistent with the majority of these respondents seeing the end of the CWB as beneficial?  Perhaps they were biased in the first place and / or expect to get more money from sources other than farming.  In the Alberta tradition, appointments to government Boards and Commissions for wheat and barley promotion come to mind.

Opinion surveys are usually described as “snapshots.”  Back in the real world, during 14 years of elections among all grain farmers for Wheat Board directorships, fully 80% of those elected supported the single desk Wheat Board.  Last year the Wheat Board conducted a vote among all wheat and barley producers which showed a majority did not agree with ending the Board’s single desk.  Agriculture Minister Ritz actually broke the law so he would not have to conduct a producer vote on the issue.

The Ipsos Reid survey should be taken with a grain of salt.


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