(December 13, 2012) A recent editorial “A good first taste” (Manitoba Cooperator, Dec. 6, 2012) is a wholly uncharacteristic mishmash.  Among other things, it accuses farmers of being unreasonable and unrealistic.  Excuse me; it is not farmers who live in a virtual world plastered up on computer screens or in an insulated bubble in a hotel conference room.  We have real farms with actual physical grain that has to be moved.  For farmers unrealistic is not an option.

Most troubling is the editorial’s assertion farmers’ legal actions are unrealistic.  Since when is it unreasonable or unrealistic to use the legal system to right a wrong?  One Federal Judge has already ruled the Harper government’s actions were “an affront to the rule of law” so this is not a frivolous case.

The reality is Ottawa’s legislation killing our Wheat Board seized control of a collectively owned enterprise and nationalized over two hundred million dollars of its assets, not to mention the value of its brand name, without any compensation to the farmer-owners who built and paid for it.  What the editorial is really suggesting is that expecting the Supreme Court to uphold the rule of law and undo this theft by restoring the CWB is unreasonable.  This borders on contempt.

Many eminent legal scholars have pointed out the way the Wheat Board was killed has profoundly dangerous implications for democracy and property rights since a government that ignores the rule of law makes all laws optional, at least for itself.  The editor, along with Ministers Ritz and Harper, may want to live in a world where might makes right but farmers do not.

Speaking of might makes right, why does the editorial uncritically repeat the “blame the farmer” grain pipeline argument put forward by a grain company executive?  Ag Minister Ritz famously said when he killed our Board, farmers’ responsibility ends when the grain hits the elevator pit.  So it is no longer up to farmers to keep the grain pipeline full – that is now the job of the private trade.  Two thirds of the crop year is ahead of us and only 20% of the grain has been contracted for.  It is already a rough ride for farmers with grain in the bins and gloating about smooth sailing for the private trade is just insulting.

The editorial also claims farmers are enjoying record prices.  How do we know what share of those prices farmers are actually getting?  Did someone do an impartial audit?  Are farmers still getting the 90% plus share the farmer-controlled CWB returned to them, or is it closer to their much lower share of canola prices?  The private trade likes to keep things secret so we will never know.

The editorial also castigated two anti-CWB activists for making the same observation the Cooperator and many others have made before:  that without the farmer controlled Wheat Board and an effective Canadian Grain Commission, farmers have been cast back in time over 120 years.  The two anti-CWB activists should be commended for effectively admitting that stringent regulation is the only realistic alternative to a farmer-controlled wheat board.  Of course the editorial is absolutely correct to say it is unrealistic to expect regulation protecting farmers from the Harper administration.

Real farm leaders have said for years that killing the CWB will have bad results.  As those bad results become clear even to former critics, farmers will be very happy that Wheat Board supporters have been “unreasonably” demanding the return of market power to farmers through a single desk CWB.  It can’t happen soon enough.

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