(Pelly, Sask., July 26, 2016) “The layoff notices to grain workers and others at the port of Churchill, Manitoba are a tragedy for both the workers and farmers in western Canada,” said  Kyle Korneychuk spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance (CWBA), an independent prairie-wide farm group.  “What is worse is they were entirely preventable.”

Korneychuk went on to say:  “Harper Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz understood this very well and provided a subsidy to create the illusion Churchill would remain a viable port after he killed the farmer-controlled Wheat Board.  Now that the subsidy is at an end, it is no surprise the layoff notices are coming.”

“The port of Churchill provided a significant freight advantage to eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba farmers.  Because the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board could service premium customers they fully utilized the port’s facilities and preserved its rail link using a winter rail program to fill the terminal over winter.  By coupling this program with on-farm storage premiums, the single desk brought more money to the farm community and kept this strategically vital asset economically viable” observed Korneychuk who served on the CWB’s elected Board of Directors and earlier on the Board of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“Our organization frequently warned in submissions to the Harper Government and in advertising during Federal elections that the giant private grain handling companies who control the majority of the world’s grain trade have no interest in using Churchill.  For them it is a smaller volume facility which they do not own.”  Korneychuk observed.

“On the other hand, farmers represented by the single-desk CWB, which owned no port facilities, had no conflict of interest in using whatever port would return the greatest value to producers and Churchill was one of those ports” he said.

“We recognized that shareholders and owners of the multinational grain companies and the two foreign owned railways have different priorities, and these do not include returning the maximum value of prairie grain to producers or maintaining shipments through facilities they do not own.”

Korneychuk concluded by offering his sympathy to the many workers and their families who loaded prairie grain into ships to help prairie farmers feed the world.

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