By: Dean Allen Harder

With all the smoke from Ag Minister Ritz, it is getting hard to breathe any truth in here.

Now the appointed board of Ritz’s CWB (formerly the Canadian Wheat Board) has finally made a move in this saga known as “a transition towards privatization”.  They say they will give farmers a $5 stake in the “new company” for every tonne of wheat they sell through the CWB in the 2013-14 season.

As a farmer, I have to say that I am captivated by the idea that perhaps I will once more be allowed a voice in the operation of the CWB, which I had, only 2 years ago when democratically farmer-elected representatives still ran the former CWB. Does this five dollar fix mean that the Ritz appointees want to finally put control back into the hands of farmers by turning it into a cooperative?

After all the Federal Minister Gerry Ritz also stated: “[The new CWB] could be a business corporation, a producer co-op, or a not-for-profit corporation.  The business model will be for the board and farmers to decide.”

Or was this ANOTHER SMOKESCREEN by our Ag Minister?

When you look at it, a $5 share for an entire tonne of grain gives a farmer as much control as playing ‘Roll up the Rim’ at Tim’s.

Sources are saying the CWB board is only interested in giving farmers minority control of the organization while still seeking majority ‘private’ control to increase their war chest. Of course if they used their imaginations, they could find a strong amount of capital through a ‘new generation’ co-operative model where farmers take equal majority control and investor shares are kept separate. Instead this feels like another example of the big boys making sure this ‘farmers working together’ thing doesn’t get out of hand.

We cannot forget that this 5-person board is not a group of elected farmers as was the case before Bill C-18; “The Bill to kill the CWB and give Private Companies more control of the Food Chain”, was rushed through parliament. This board is appointed by and solely accountable to the Federal Agriculture Minister, Mr. Gerry Ritz. That’s right, the same Gerry Ritz who has been orchestrating these ‘SMOKESCREENS’. The same man who said he ‘respects the vote’ of farmers but then ignored the 62% who wished to keep the single desk intact, as a farmer-controlled entity.

So why would the CWB bring in equity shares if it isn’t moving towards a co-operative model?  Some possibilities:

a)     They need more farmers to sign up in order to pay the bills.

b)     The $17.5 Billion farmer driven class action lawsuit is still going through the courts. Harper and Ritz want to blow as much smoke as the can over the reality that farmers have lost big money with the federal decapitation of the CWB.

c)     Partnerships with grain companies aren’t working out as planned.

d)     Pinup girls, ignoring the support base, advertising ploys, and football pools just aren’t attracting business.

e)     When the CWB buys grain at port from grain companies and then tries to sell it for a higher price across the ocean it just looks bad to farmers if they don’t have any ownership in the process.

f)       Giving private companies ALL the earnings and assets of the CWB might be hard for the Competition Bureau to swallow all at once.

At the end of the day, we’re getting a sense from Gerry Ritz and his 5 appointees that they think farmers do not have the mental capacity to be given majority or co-operative control of a grain company. Or even worse, that he’s taking direction from the private grain companies and doesn’t want to ruffle those major Conservative supporters.

It’s time for the Ritz appointed CWB board and the Conservatives to change face and stop offering up the CWB as a golden calf to private companies as was done in Australia. That is a recipe for failure. It hurts on-farm sustainability and it weakens long-term rural community development by handing control over to international players.

Stop the smokescreens Mr.Ritz. It’s time to clear the air.

Smokescreens and other howlers from our Agriculture Minister:

“Farmers want a ‘dual market.”’ 1 – SMOKESCREEN.
Removing the single desk “drives the price up”.  2 – SMOKESCREEN.
“I’ve never been allowed to attend a board meeting” 3 of the farmer-elected directors – SMOKESCREEN.
My party “respects the vote” of farmers 4 – SMOKESCREEN   see:  Ritz Pulls back from CWB Debate. Manitoba Co-operator, March 24, 2011, vol 69, no 12. pp 1.

Comments are closed.