(December 18, 2013) Anyone who supports farm-saved seed and public plant breeding should be pleased by the results of the elections for the Saskatchewan Wheat and Barley Commissions.  These commissions will allocate millions of dollars of farmers’ money into wheat and barley research now that the Federal Government has trashed most of its facilities and fired the scientists who did the work.

During the elections there was a determined push by Astroturf groups funded by the Federal Government and the seed trade to stack the Commissions with people who could be easily stampeded into giving away 300 generations of open source seed development.  They were hoping farmers would vote for candidates supporting a repeat of the discredited canola model.  That is where farmers paid for basic seed improvements.  Then the Feds gave the results to the agro-chemical companies who promptly added a trait making it tolerant to their own herbicides, patented the varieties, and have been selling both the seed and the chemicals back to farmers at an obscene mark up ever since.

The Commission elections showed that farmers weren’t going to accept this model for their wheat and barley.  They elected seven out of seven Wheat Commission members who supported public plant breeding and four out of six to the Barley Commission.

These results are just the latest in a long trend of farmers rejecting privatization.  When farmers were asked in a 1996 Federal plebiscite if they wanted to keep marketing their wheat and barley through the single desk Canadian Wheat Board an overwhelming majority said yes, in spite of well financed propaganda from both the private trade’s Astroturf groups and the Government of Alberta.

In 1998 farmers got the right to elect Directors to control the Canadian Wheat Board.  Again, in spite of the best efforts of the private trade and Conservative governments, farmers stubbornly elected eight out of ten directors who favoured the single desk.  This in the face of immense amounts of money backing the opposition, dirty election tricks by then Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl that would have made a third world dictator blush, and gag orders on the organization unheard of on this side of the Iron Curtain.

Before the last Federal Election Agriculture Minister Ritz told farmers they would have a vote on changes to their Wheat Board then he broke his promise after the election.  So the Wheat Board itself held a plebiscite and farmers voted to keep their Wheat Board.  Minister Ritz ignored the vote and later ignored a Federal Court ruling farmers had a right to vote, and killed the Wheat Board.

Now Minister Ritz and his backers in the private trade have received another rebuke from farmers who voted against Ritz’s intention to privatize the seed genetics farmers have built and paid to develop over three hundred generations.

It is clearly a trend:  given a fair vote western farmers have consistently rejected the ideas of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and his dwindling number of followers.  In fact the number of votes for his handpicked darlings in the farm community has shrunk to almost nothing over the past 20 years.

How many more votes do we need to say the trend of farmers rejecting the ideas of Minister Ritz and his cronies is a fact?

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