Back Off, Bunge

Don Dutchak
Rama, Sask.
July 23, 2011

The Globe and Mail featured an article this week entitled, “Grain Firm Bunge Welcomes End of Wheat Board.” 

As if images of the giant U.S.-based grain trader ready to pounce further into western Canada aren’t cringe-worthy enough, the article reports repugnant viewpoints from the company’s CEO Alberto Weisser who applauds Ottawa’s decision to turf the CWB.

Among his egregious opinions, Weisser remarks that other countries have eliminated board trade because “it’s not always well managed.” 14 international trade investigations of the CWB and the Auditor General of Canada would all beg to disagree.

Since two thirds of the CWB’s board of directors, who oversee the CWB’s operations, are elected farmers, it looks like what Weisser is really saying is that farmers are poor managers. Presumably the same farmers he hopes to profit from.

He also notes that mostly less efficient farmers support the outdated board system. Does that mean the vast majority of farmers who support the CWB single desk in election after election are all inefficient? This hardly seems fair, or credible.

This also begs a few questions.

If Weisser thinks that inefficient, archaic farmers back the CWB, then why, in his efficient world, is he asserting that he wants to deal with these people, post-CWB?

Furthermore, if Bunge is poised to enter this new world then why isn’t their CEO also demonstrating some benefit to farmers by stating how much grain handling fees will drop because of this player arriving on the scene?

In reality, it doesn’t take a genius to envision a post-CWB world with massive companies ready to descend on a group that they perceive to be inefficient, easy targets from which corporate profits can be taken.

Moreover, the thought of a U.S.-based behemoth like Bunge providing the same level of service and commitment to farmers that the CWB has for decades seems unlikely.

Like the other grain companies, Bunge can barely wait for the change. Understandably, Prairie farmers aren’t reciprocating the same sentiment.


Fess Up, Cattlemen

Lorne E Herndier
Melville, Sask.
July 19, 2011

In a recent interview Travis Toews, President of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, discussed the Association supporting the “freedom to market your product in as many opportunities as possible” and that the country’s feed grain producers “should have all the options available to them” to do so.

If the Association really believes in more options, then why are they supporting the end of one strong, viable option – the single desk?

Speaking of options, maybe Mr. Toews and his crew have failed to realize that feed barley currently can be sold domestically to cattle producers without having to go through the Canadian Wheat Board. If feed barley is marketed through the CWB, it is for export or domestic human consumption. Does this scenario not give producers more choice and transparency than just selling it privately and allowing grain companies to decide if it goes domestically or for export?

He also speaks of the Association’s concern and desire for greater competitiveness of feed grain growers. That’s great, but what do they really mean? Could their concern really stem from their hope for cheaper feed for cattle producers?

The Cattlemen’s Association should stop talking in euphemisms. The time has come for them simply to fess up and state that they’re behind the federal government’s plan to axe the single desk.

That way they can receive their pat on the back from the Federal Agriculture Minister and eventually reap their own rewards at the expense of grain producers.

Freedom, Minister Ritz? Really?!

by Kyle Korneychuk
Pelly, Sask.
July 14, 2011

Gerry Ritz, Federal Agriculture Minister, recently responded to an editorial in the Leader-Post by columnist Bruce Johnstone. Ritz brazenly titled his response “We’ll Give Farmers Freedom.”

He urges that it’s time to give western Canadian farmers marketing freedom for wheat and barley and that it’s “the democratic thing to do.”

One has to wonder if Ritz even remotely realizes how erroneous and irony-laden his arguments are. For starters, he’s proposing a system for farmers that would see them go from owning their own marketing agency where they can develop programs, elect their own directors and have an influence in their own industry, to one that would allow the grain trade to assume total control.

With the system that he’s such an ardent proponent of, farmers will be left with less choice. Under the open market, they won’t be marketing their grain, but essentially only pricing it through possibly one of three companies and in some areas, only one.

In one breath, Ritz declares that western Canadian farmers should have the same rights as their counterparts in other parts of Canada and in another he states that a plebiscite is not necessary. Does he recall that farmers in other parts of Canada actually had a direct vote on the future of their marketing structure? So, let’s get this straight – he wants to see Prairie farmers empowered with more liberties, but he doesn’t want to give them the basic right to vote on the future of single desk?

He ups the ante by calling the Canadian Wheat Board Act “out of date” and implies that it short changes farmers. In actuality, he exhibits another example of how outdated his memory is, and how skewed his reasoning can be. The CWB Act was amended in 1998, which allowed for control of the organization to be passed to the farmers themselves and for 10 farmer-elected members to join the board of directors. This became the catalyst for future improvements within the CWB and ultimately more choice for farmers. Evidently, the CWB Act is not the limiting relic which Mr. Ritz would have people believe, but perhaps he hasn’t done enough research to discern this.

And with regards to democracy, how can he proclaim that selling grain through the private trade is democratic when, since 1998 eight of the ten farmer-elected CWB Directors have consistently been strong single desk proponents. Hasn’t democracy spoken already?

Furthermore, if Minister Ritz really is so altruistic, one might wonder why he’s currently content on supporting marketing boards for products like milk, eggs and poultry. Don’t these groups also deserve marketing freedom too?

The reality is that Minister Ritz is choosing to ignore reality, and that he has a rather distorted view of what freedom really is for western Canada’s producers. It’s sad, scary, but true.


The Case of the Delusional Ag Ministers

Vic Althouse
Kelvington, Sk
July 14, 2011.

The Agriculture Ministers from BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan recently sang songs of praise and adulation for the federal government’s plan to give producers marketing choice for wheat, durum and barley. They announced their solidarity on the matter at the Annual Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agriculture Ministers meeting.

In the first place, one has to wonder how these three have derived such a mandate to support the Federal Agriculture Minister when, in fact, the three provinces they represent have voted in six of eight single desk directors in CWB elections.

Jack Hayden, Alberta’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, affirmed that for producers “marketing opportunities are being lost every day.” Maybe Mr. Hayden could have enlightened us all a bit more by elaborating on exactly where and what these incredible marketing opportunities are. And while you are at it, Mr. Minister, in your infinite wisdom, how about attributing some dollar values to these great prospects?

Right in step, Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud stated that his province’s farmers spend money and make decisions on land, machinery and inputs to grow their own crops. And so, he theorizes, why shouldn’t they also taste marketing freedom in terms of selling their grain? In adherence to this ideology, would this Agriculture Minister also be willing to remove the monopoly that railways and grain companies have in certain areas, which would actually give producers more choice?

The truth is that our three esteemed ministers are blatantly disregarding the democratic right of producers. Let’s not forget that producers pay all operating costs of the CWB; the CWB is controlled, directed, and funded by farmers. The only logical and intelligent conclusion is that producers deserve the right to decide its future. If Ministers McRae, Hayden and Bjornerud do not agree, then it begs the question – what are they afraid of?

Essentially, their level of delusion is astonishing. The reality is this: if the CWB loses the single desk, producers will have less choice. The CWB currently markets producers’ grain to 70 countries. Under the open market, that the three ministers are such fervent proponents of, producers will price their grain through possibly one of three companies and in some areas, only one company. Yes, this certainly sounds like a marvellous set of options.

If it’s an issue of giving producers more choice, there are choices in the present system. There are various pricing options without the CWB; producers can sell domestically as feed or even find their own buyer with the provision that they do not sell below what the CWB is selling into that market.

The three ministers need to return to reality or face a rude awakening. Producers are not about to buy into their rhetoric and delusions any time soon.


Ritz talking nonsense on value adding and the Wheat Board

(Regina) Agriculture Minister Ritz claims destroying the Canadian Wheat Board is justified because it will encourage more value adding on the prairies.

“You have to question his grasp of the basic economic facts of value adding. With our very high transportation costs, does it really make sense, for example, to bake bread on the prairies and ship it to Toronto or Hong Kong?” asked Bill Gehl, chairperson of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.

“You also have to wonder about the Minister’s logic in this. Is he saying farmers should take less for their grain to subsidize value adding projects?”

Gehl then went on to point out that the chief executive of Cargill’s Canadian subsidiary, Mr. Len Penner does not agree with Minister Ritz that scrapping the Wheat Board will increase value adding. In the May 19th Manitoba Cooperator Mr. Penner is reported as indicating that scrapping the Wheat Board is not “likely to entice construction of more plants in Western Canada to mill wheat or turn barley into malt.”

“Does Minister Ritz think huge multinational processors will simply absorb the extra costs of dealing with thousands of individual farmers instead of our Wheat Board’s single desk with its quality guarantee?” asked Gehl.

“If Minister Ritz is allowed to destroy the Wheat Board’s single desk then its market development and its ability to provide a reliable supply of wheat and malt barley would be lost and that will hurt both farmers and value added processors. In the end, it means lower prices for farmers.” observed Gehl.

Mr. Gehl concluded by saying “obviously no informed opinion agrees with Minister Ritz’s ideas about value adding. He has a responsibility to provide something beyond catch phrases to justify his destruction of our Wheat Board.”


Government pays for million dollar anti-Wheat Board lobby?

(Regina) The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance today raised the spectre of suspicion that the Federal Government may be paying for a substantial part of the anti-Canadian Wheat Board lobby.

The Alliance pointed to information found on the Government of Canada’s web site showing that two anti-wheat board lobby groups, the Western Barley Growers Association (WBGA) and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA), have received approximately $1 Million in the past eight years for so-called “private sector risk management solutions.”

“Most in the farm community suspect this is code for lobbying to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board” said Bill Gehl, chair of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.

According to disclosures on the Government of Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food web site, the Alberta based Western Barley Growers Association was awarded $500,000.00 starting in 2003 and extending over multiple years. Court documents tabled in the Friends of the Wheat Board case indicated this organization has less than 140 members. In the second quarter of 2009-10 the Conservative government awarded this group an additional $308,501.27 which the government described “reflects an increase of $127,977.50 to the value of an award previously disclosed for the 2nd Quarter of 2008-09.” The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association also received $110,000.00 in multiyear grants starting in 2007 from the Conservative government. It should be noted the WCWGA collapsed for lack of membership and was only recently revived. A meagre 150 people attended its lavish dinner during the recent Farm Progress Show in Regina, a dinner partially sponsored by the Federal Government’s Farm Credit Corporation. (Accessed: May 19, 2011) (Accessed: May 19, 2011)

Both associations have been strident opponents of the single desk marketing authority of the CWB. Brian Otto, a recent president of the Barley Growers Association was just defeated in a run for a seat on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. He now sits on the Board of the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC), an Ottawa-based lobby group dedicated to ending the CWB’s single desk selling responsibilities.

“Minister Ritz has acknowledged that only 10% of farmers want to end the Wheat Board. Given the very small membership acknowledged by the Western Barley Growers Association, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association collapse, and the financial life-line provided to them by Government and private industry, it is fair to ask what value they bring to any debate around the Wheat Board,” said Gehl.

The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance urged Ritz to come clean about how his plans for the Wheat Board will affect farmers, instead of hiding behind these propped-up organizations.


The Regina Leader-Post

December 13, 2010
By Bruce Johnstone

Single-desk marketing supporters nearly sweep Canadian Wheat Board elections

REGINA — Four out of the five directors recently elected to serve on the Canadian Wheat Board are supporters of single-desk marketing . . . “The pro-wheat board candidates came within 31 votes of a sweep,’ said Wells in an interview Monday from his farm in the Swift Current area. “If 16 of those farmers had changed their votes, that would have been a clean sweep . . .’ . . .


Alberta Farmer

Monday, March 28, 2011
By Daniel Winters, STAFF

Ritz Says He Won’t Scrap Single Desk Unless Majority Of Farmers Vote For It

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says his party “respects the vote” of farmers who back the single desk and suggested there won’t be any attempt to impose dual marketing on the Canadian Wheat Board unless a majority of producers vote for it . . . .


Wheat Board monopoly to end in 2012: minister

CBC News

May 18, 2011

The Conservative government will use its majority in the House of Commons to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on marketing wheat and barley, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Wednesday.

The government will likely introduce legislation this fall, Ritz said, with the changes expected to take effect in August 2012 . . . .


Conservatives have no mandate to end Wheat Board’s single desk

Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
May 18, 2011

(Regina) The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance (CWBA) condemns today’s announcement by Harper’s Agriculture Minister that he intends to introduce legislation to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk selling responsibilities for wheat and barley for the 2012 crop year.

“The Conservatives have no mandate from farmers to end the single desk” observed Bill Gehl, chairperson of the CWBA, “farmers are only 2% of the population spread over 57 western ridings, and so claiming the Conservative Party has a mandate from farmers to change the Canadian Wheat Board is not credible.”

Just before the Federal election farmers voted to give 80% of the Wheat Board directors’ seats to farmers who support the single desk. At the time Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the Board’s future was up to farmers. Now after the Federal election Ritz is contradicting his earlier statement by saying he will introduce legislation to remove the single desk.

Gehl pointed out that “the Wheat Board returns better than 98% of sales revenue back to farmers. Without the Board’s single desk, farmers will have to market their crops through the private trade, whose profit margins will lower the returns farmers get from those sales revenues.”

Gehl went on to observe: “every academic study that has had access to the CWB’s books, and several trade inquiries have shown that the Wheat Board increases the farm gate price of grain. It should be obvious to anyone who can run a calculator this is why farmers have consistently supported the Wheat Board’s single desk.”

“We are calling on Prime Minister Harper to respect farmers’ right to democratically choose their marketing system through the elections to the CWB Board of Directors and to respect those election results” concluded Mr. Gehl.

For further information call Bill Gehl at 306-543-7875.


Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission

June 7, 2011

The Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission does not support the Federal Governments intent to change the marketing mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board without holding a producer plebiscite. The official policy of the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission is that Producers, not government, should decide the marketing system for wheat and barley in Western Canada.

The explanation that federal agriculture minister Jerry Ritz gives for his plan to arbitrarily change the CWB is that the conservative party has obtained a majority in parliament. By his reasoning, this means that they have the mandate of agriculture producers to change the CWB. This assertion does not hold up under close scrutiny.

Agriculture producers make up 2% of the general voting public; these votes alone could not give the federal conservatives a majority. For Mr. Ritz to claim that the Conservative party has a mandate to arbitrarily change the CWB on the basis of less than 2% of eligible voters is absurd. The federal government is on record as saying they only want “real” farmers to vote in CWB elections or on CWB policies. By Mr. Ritz’s assertion of a mandate, he is using urban support to justify a decision that affects the rural population. Unless the conservative party has a way of recording the secret ballet votes of agricultural producers, they cannot say that the majority of producers support their plans for the CWB.

The Alberta Soft Wheat Commission requests that the Agriculture minister hold a plebiscite for agriculture producers who market wheat and barley. If Mr. Ritz is certain that the majority of agriculture producers support changing the CWB’s mandate, he should be willing to support the democratic right of producers to decide what that marketing system should look like.


Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Canadian farmers need details
Date:  June 7, 2011

OTTAWA – The federal budget announced yesterday focused on balancing the books, raising questions on what the ultimate impact of this budget will be on Canadian farmers.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture believes agriculture can play a key role in addressing environmental and economic issues facing Canadians and it encourages the government to keep this in mind as fiscal plans unfold.

. . . (Text removed for clarity) . . .

The CFA, however, is concerned with the government’s plan to introduce legislation this autumn that will end the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) marketing power on wheat and barley in 2012. The CFA insists the government respect the CWB Act and hold a clear producer plebiscite before any legislation is introduced, leaving the choice to the farmers themselves. The CFA also requests the government share its business plan on how a dual marketing structure could work, outlining the full range of impacts, including impacts to research.

The CFA and its members remain committed to working with the government in true partnership to define the needs and opportunities of the agricultural sector.

Read the full news release here:

For more information, please contact:

Ron Bonnett
CFA President
(705) 987-3402



National Farmers Union
May 19th, 2011

Saskatoon, Sask. – The National Farmers Union is calling on the Harper Conservative government to be honest about the Canadian Wheat Board. On Wednesday returning Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz stated that the Conservative Government intends to remove the CWB’s single desk through changes to legislation in the fall. He also stated that the CWB would continue to be an option for farmers after the changes, and that farmers would be better off without the single desk. “Ritz is not being honest with farmers. The fact is farmers won’t be better off without the single desk, because the CWB won’t survive without it. This idea of a dual market is a myth. It’s the CWB with its single desk, or no CWB at all,” stated NFU President Terry Boehm.

One only needs to look at what happened in Australia over the past three years. In 2008 the government of Australia removed the single desk of the Australian Wheat Board’s (AWB), and today it no longer exists. It was broken up, with parts of sold off to Agrium and Cargill. This happened despite the fact that the AWB possessed considerable assets, in contrast to the CWB which has not been allowed to possess any assets such as grain handling facilities.

“The Harper government continues to argue that farmers will be better off without the CWB. However, they have never produced any financial analysis to demonstrate this. The only academic studies on this have always proven that the CWB brings substantial benefits to farmers through the power of its single desk selling advantage.

The fact is, the CWB brings $1.5 billion into farmers pockets every year, money they would not have otherwise,” said Boehm.

“The advantage of the single desk to farmers is no surprise either. Patents work the same way for big corporations. Patents give corporations exclusive selling rights on their products. Why do you think corporations defend their patents so vigorously? It’s the same with OPEC in the oil sector and it’s the same with Canpotex in the Potash sector, a point the Brad Wall government was quick to make in Saskatchewan last fall, “stated NFU President Terry Boehm.

For further information, please contact:

National Office
2717 Wentz Ave.
Saskatoon, Sask., S7K 4B6
Tel (306) 652-9465
Fax (306) 664-6226
Terry Boehm NFU President (306) 255-2880
Kevin Wipf NFU Executive Director (306) 652-9465