Minister needs to put single desk option on the grain transportation table

(Pelly, Sk., February 26, 2014)  Farmers facing huge cuts in grain prices, long delivery delays, and cash flow problems as they prepare for spring seeding find the response of the Federal and Provincial Agriculture Ministers to the grain crisis pathetic, observed Kyle Korneychuk, spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, a prairie wide organization representing grain farmers.

“Nobody, least of all farmers, are being fooled by Minister Ritz’s claim he is considering all options for fixing the multi-billion dollar wreck he created” said Korneychuk from his Pelly area wheat farm.  “It is time to give farmers back democratic control of their grain marketing, since the private trade has failed completely.  The best remedy is to reverse the destruction of the farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board (CWB)” Korneychuk observed.

Korneychuk dismissed the suggestion that the railways are now prepared to negotiate and sign level of service agreements with grain shippers.  “There is nothing new in this, the CWB did this all the time” Korneychuk said.  “However, the inland terminals don’t have the same negotiating power with the railways simply because their terminals are mostly captive to one or the other of the railways.  In any event, the terminals simply recover any extra costs imposed by the railways from the price they pay farmers.”  The government, Korneychuk said, has destroyed the only organization (the CWB) willing to take the railways to court over level of service.

Korneychuk also dismissed the suggestion by Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure Minister Don McMorris that farmers negotiate contracts with grain companies with reciprocal financial penalties.  “Most farmers already attempt to negotiate such contracts, but farmers will always be at a disadvantage when doing so” said Korneychuk.  “Farmers wanting to haul to that elevator in the future will think twice or three times before taking that company to court.”

“We have heard the song and dance about the railways, grain companies, and Ottawa working cooperatively to increase system efficiency before,” said Korneychuk “and it begs the question of who will benefit?  From past experience farmers know any efficiency gains go as profits to the bigger players in the system and that extra money will come out of farmers’ grain cheques.  The case in point is the fact Ottawa has refused to conduct a railway costing review, despite the railways already overcharging farmers by more than $175 million per year.”

“This shipping chaos means farmers have now missed record high prices and no amount of magical thinking about options to make this defective private system work will recover the billions of lost dollars and lost customers caused by the destruction of our single desk wheat board,” Korneychuk observed.

Korneychuk went on to say: “As long as farmers have no collective bargaining power they will be the donkeys the big companies ride for their profit.”

Korneychuk concluded by saying:  “Orderly marketing and the single desk Wheat Board addressed our disadvantages of distance, a constrained transportation system, and competition from other often heavily subsidized nations.  Without the single desk farmers are simply exploited by more powerful players who can download the costs of competition onto them, which is exactly what we are seeing with the chaos at port this year and the Minister is ignoring the only effective remedy which is to restore the Wheat Board he destroyed.”       

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  1. Anthony Eyolfson

    Big Corporations set up to abuse the farmers by our Conservative Government

  2. Marilyn Maxwell

    I feel sorry for the farmers plight. Can they not move their wheat to markets by truck? I heard that the US is really short due to drought. Remember this betrayal by the Conservatives and get them out!
    March 1st, 2014 National Omnibus March against Harper! Rally!

    • Thanks for the support Marilyn, much appreciated. In answer to your question about trucking grain to the US, the US has always been a premium market for Canadian wheat. However it has never bought more than about ten percent of our total production.

      About 70 percent of our annual production goes over-seas. The volumes are so huge that only rail has the capacity to move Canadian grain to market. Just for wheat and barley this usually takes around 300,000 grain car trips to sea ports over the year to achieve.

      The sea port terminals are too far away to truck the grain to, and they are only set up to handle rail cars. About 20% of our grain is consumed within Canada, much of which is milled into flour in western Canada and shipped east.

      The US is also a very large grain exporter, so even when it had the worst drought in over 100 years, it was still able to supply its own needs, although it had less to export.

  3. Andre Gauthier

    I could not agree more well said; we need to gather back what we lost as soon as possible.

  4. Harry Babchuk

    How absolutely true, could not be put any more precisely.