Grain Ships waiting off Vancouver - D. Stokes photo

Grain Ships waiting off Vancouver – D. Stokes photo

“The Canadian Wheat Board is dead but CWB, its government-owned, open-market successor, is still a lightning rod for controversy.”  – Manitoba Cooperator

Last week Minister Ritz was quoted in the Manitoba Cooperator claiming killing the single desk Canadian Wheat Board is having a positive impact across the prairies.

He is starting to sound like one of those 1960’s “Chatty Cathy” dolls with the string coming out between its should blades.  Pull the string and it would repeat the same mindless phrases over and over.

How does taking almost 2 billion dollars of wheat sales out of farmers’ pockets in the last ten months and giving it to the private grain companies, most of whom are foreign owned, have a positive impact across the prairies?

How does having premium customers like Japan and China complaining about quality assurance and reliable supply, two areas the single desk excelled in, have any sort of positive impact?

We know from the audited statements of the now dead Canadian Wheat Board that the cost of moving wheat to port was in the range of 78 cents per bushel, and that was all in:  rail, elevation, cleaning and terminal service.  Over the past months the cost to farmers is now almost ten times as high – somewhere north of $6.69 per bushel.  There are no Chatty Cathy talking points from Minister Ritz on where that money has gone aside from belligerence about why he will not table an audited statement for his crippled CWB.

We know the railways are constrained by law from taking any more money than they usually do, so that leaves the private grain companies with some explaining to do and blaming the railways when they were delivering grain at 98% of normal just does not cut it.

Blaming the oil companies for shipping oil by rail is always fun, but that oil largely goes south, not east or west.  In 2013 there were about 140,000 rail car loads of oil shipped in Canada.  That sounds like a lot until you realize that the CWB would regularly ship 240,000 cars of grain to the west coast each year, and there would be a similar number shipped by the private trade in other grains, not to mention the grain cars going east to the Lakehead, north to Churchill, and a smaller number of durum and malt barley cars going south to the US.

With the latest news that the private grain trade, which holds an oligopoly on port terminals, is not handling Minister Ritz’s CWB grain, we can say with confidence that only Chatty Cathy could repeat Minister Ritz’s mantra that “dual marketing” will work.  As so many single desk supporters pointed out:  without the farmer controlled single-desk Canadian Wheat Board, the only choice is the private trade.

The contest of interest now is the power play going on between the railways and the private grain trade in front of the Canadian Transportation Agency.  Whoever wins that one, grain farmers can be assured they will pay more and get less – unfortunately farmers cannot take that to the bank.

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