A private broker has suggested that something like the Canola Council of Canada be given the difficult task of answering international trade challenges on behalf of farmers. He concludes we really do not need a CWB single desk. What the one has to do with the other is only known to him.
Let’s look at the Canola Council. In its un-audited 2009 Annual Report the Canola Council claims that it has invested $5.4 million in canola research. It also claims to be spending about $9 million to increase market access for canola. However, if you read the fine print $7.8 million of that was a gift from the Federal Government. By contrast the Canadian Wheat Board, with a couple of notable exceptions, has never gone cap in hand to government for funds. But that is another story.
What about the idea of having a Canola Council style group respond to trade complaints? In 1998, after over a year of trials, audits, and investigations by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Canadian Wheat Board successfully established that it did not subsidize feed grain for Canadian feedlots. The cost? A little over $10 million, or more than two years of Canola Council research budgets.
Or how about a couple of years earlier when the railways suddenly discovered there was snow in the Rockies in January and just could not seem to get the grain to port on time? The CWB sued them. They won approximately $30 million from CP rail for bad service while CN threw in the towel and paid an undisclosed amount. The CWB answers only to farmers. In contrast, the front page of the Canola Council’s Un-Audited Annual Report is filled with the names of private corporate sponsors. You know that means the Council doesn’t answer just to farmers.
Some brokers sow confusion by claiming the cost of the CWB is about ten times higher than its audited statements show for the administration costs of research, advocacy, trade challenges AND marketing 20 million tonnes of grain. Perhaps they do not want to admit the CWB shows farmers the true costs of marketing their grain, while the private trade hides all that in what they call “the basis.”
It is a world of giant corporations. A voluntary organization like the Canola Council, afraid to step on any toes in industry and government that provide its handouts, cannot be expected to do the heavy work of defending farmers.
Sometimes the interests of farmers conflict with private industry. Only the Canadian Wheat Board has the independence and resources to defend the interests of farmers who grow Board grains, the only people it works for. Sometimes it even ends up saving cattle feeders into the bargain.