Ritz buys more fairy dust for grain farmers

(January 29, 2015) Since the killing of the farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board, farmers have lost billions of dollars that have been siphoned into the pockets of the private grain companies – the same companies who have totally bungled organizing quality-assured shipments of wheat and barley to port. There are more and more reports of high-end customers abandoning Canada as a supplier of premium wheat and barley. Facing spring seeding with bins full of grain worth half what it should be even the most trusting western farmers are starting to ask uncomfortable questions.

So what is Ottawa’s response? Minister Ritz announced he was effectively giving three quarters of a million dollars to provide John DePape, one of the most persistent critics of the Wheat Board, with a megaphone to proclaim the virtues of the private trade. Readers might remember how Mr. DePape could be relied upon to claim the Board was not transparent enough compared to the private trade, and soon after the Wheat Board was killed he started to complain that his beloved private trade was not being transparent either. Apparently Mr. DePape now intends to correct this using government money.

Listening at grain trade doors

Listening at grain trade doors

This exercise in fantasy will be carried out with much fanfare through a web site called PDQ run by Mr. DePape’s company Farmco and paid for by Ottawa and the Alberta Wheat Commission. It is supposed to “improve farmers’ ability to make well-informed marketing decisions and maximize the value of their crops.” But is such a thing even possible?

Transparency stops at the elevator doorway

The short answer is not really. In fact the grain trade is now entirely private and Mr. DePape has no more privileged access to the grain sales prices of the five giant companies that handle the world’s grain than anyone else does. An astute observer pointed out “transparency stops at the elevator doorway.” These giant companies make most, if not all, their sales directly to their customers behind closed doors.

So how will Mr. DePape undertake to make the opaque transparent? Listening at the trading room doors of the Cargills, Viterras, and Dreyfuses of this world is not much of an option. Perhaps Mr. DePape will employ the same extra-sensory perception he apparently used to determine that whatever the annual audited statements of the farmer-controlled CWB showed, they weren’t showing true numbers?

No matter how much money Ottawa and the trusting Alberta Wheat Commission pour into this web site farmers can be sure the actual sales prices will remain the grain industry’s most closely guarded secret. At least until we have a single-desk Canadian Wheat Board again which is prepared to resume opening its sales books to its farmer-elected Directors and its costs and results in yearly audited statements to producers.

The private grain trade will always exercise its right to remain private. All the efforts of Mr. DePape and others to reinforce the illusion that such a private market can be made open and transparent are pointless – they simply give some farmers the illusion they are marketing their crops, rather than simply taking a price from big grain. No matter what happens an individual farmer can never have the market power to extract anything more from the market place than what the private trade allows them to have.

Instead of calling their web site PDQ, they should really call it CDF “The Office for the Preservation of the Faith” except that the Roman Catholic Church got there first, back in 1542.


  1. Randy Proven

    This whole exercise has but one purpose. Farmer land owners have no place in corporate Canada, and they must be gotten rid of. A population that can feed itself is difficult to control. Ritz and crew are just following corporate orders. As can be seen in Saskatchewan, the land takeover is well under way.

  2. Harold Bell

    Further prove ritz knows nothing about handling or moveing grain he should drop his big rear on his hands and stop wasting our time and money