Bakers Lobby Washington on High Wheat Prices
 
ABA Band of Bakers Urge Congress, Administration to Address Wheat Crisis: Efforts to “Save Our Wheat” Continue 
 
March 14, 2008 -- Bakers from across the country came together to send a loud and clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration that immediate action needs to be taken to alleviate the commodity crisis," said Robb MacKie, President & CEO of the American Bakers Association (ABA). “The wheat supply is at historically low levels, commodity prices are at an all time high, the dollar is down and the consumer is just starting to feel the impact. ABA and its members have been warning government officials about the pending crisis for the past year; any further delay could have extremely serious consequences,” added Mr. MacKie. 

On Wednesday, March 12, 2008, the ABA was joined by other industry organizations in Washington, D.C., for a “Band of Bakers & Allied Forces March.” This united effort was designed to alert Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Bush Administration to the severity of the crisis and the potentially dire impact on the industry and consumers. To kick off the day, ABA and its allies held a press conference at the National Press Club.  

Over 80 bakers, representing businesses of all different sizes, visited with more than 45 members of Congress, the Secretary of Agriculture and his senior staff, and key White House policy officials to urge immediate action on ABA’s Three Point Plan, including: 

  • Early release of non-environmentally sensitive CRP acreage; 
     
  • Elimination of the ethanol import tariff and temporary waiving of ethanol production limits; and 
     
  • A USDA review of wheat export policies in light of the new market dynamics.

Bakers are hard pressed to manage the extreme volatility of flour prices. “Last year I was paying about $14 for a hundred-pound bag of flour – last week I was quoted $57 for that same bag of flour,” commented Len Amoroso, ABA member and Executive Vice President of Amoroso Baking in Philadelphia, Pa. “This means that I will have to spend $13 to $15 million more this year just on flour…bakers can’t keep up with these increases - we will be forced to make cuts or go under.”

Reuben Gist, Director of Advocacy, Capital Area Food Bank, spoke at the press conference about what this means to consumers. “A loaf of bread now costs the same as a gallon of gas. People are having to make hard decisions on the basics, including transportation, health care, childcare and housing.

The result is that more of the working poor are turning to food banks, such as ours, for their basic food needs.”

Bakers and other wheat users are also very concerned over the historically low stocks, with the industry currently operating with less than a one-month supply. “ABA is asking USDA to review export policies in light of these historically low domestic wheat stocks,” said Mr. MacKie. “While we are not calling for an export moratorium, USDA has a responsibility to review its policies in light of the new commodity paradigm.”

“While there is no ‘silver bullet’ fix for the current commodity crisis, ABA strongly believes that steps can be taken to help stabilize commodity markets, give wheat users increased confidence about supply availability, and importantly, provide some relief for consumer concerns about escalating food prices,” commented David Brown, ABA Commodity Task Force Chairman and Vice President of Procurement for Sara Lee Corporation.

ABA was joined by a number of industry groups in its Band of Bakers and Allied Forces March on Washington, D.C. Members of the Independent Bakers Association, Retail Bakers of America, Snack Food Association and BEMA lent their voices to this critically-important effort. “We recognize that the drastic increase in commodity prices not only affects our baker members, but all commodity users. We greatly appreciate these allied groups’ support and participation in today’s meetings,” said Mr. MacKie. 
 
“While the March was a success, I cannot stress enough the importance of our continued efforts to put pressure on policymakers in Washington to act now,” said ABA Chairman Ron Turano, President, Turano Baking Company. “All bakers should continue making calls, writing letters and visiting their members of Congress, to support the ABA Three Point Plan.”

Letter to Prime Minister Harper

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mr. Harper:

Farmers For Justice is requesting free, no Buy Back export permits for all grains and grades of grains (wheat & barley) by any person or company that requests one, in Western Canada. This request is to the Government Of Canada. A written response will be expected no later than March 17, 2008 @ 5:00 pm MST.

If a favorable response is not received by the time given, the appropriate action will follow.

Your response will posted on this website as this request has been.

c.c. Minister Ritz

This letter was delivered via email on Monday, March 10, 2008.

Programs Under the Agricultural Policy Framework are Continuing for Quebec Producers

April 1, 2008 -- The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Honourable Laurent Lessard, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, today announced the continuation of programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF). The ministers stated that the continuation of APF programs is necessary to allow programs to be developed under Growing Forward.

“Growing Forward is delivering real results for Canadian agriculture and this Government is working with the provinces and territories to give farm families stability while we develop important new initiatives,” said Minister Ritz. “Providing this stability while delivering progress on Growing Forward is another example of this Government’s commitment to put farmers first.”

“Continuing programs will allow for a smooth transition to Growing Forward, thereby addressing the concerns raised by all stakeholders in the sector, and will ensure the continuity of the efforts and initiatives undertaken by our farmers and our partners,” added Minister Lessard.

The continuation of programs under APF will allow Growing Forward programs to be developed with the needs of the sector in mind. “This gives us the time we need to ensure farmers have the voice they deserve in program design,” said Minister Ritz.

Programs are Continuing for Ontario Producers

April 1, 2008 -- The federal and provincial governments are working to deliver new programs for Ontario farmers through the Growing Forward initiative, but while that progress continues, existing programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF) will be extended for up to one year, starting April 1, 2008.

The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, today announced details about the continuation of programs under the APF. 

Growing Forward is delivering real results for Canadian agriculture and this Government is working with the provinces and territories to give farm families stability while we develop important new initiatives,” said Minister Ritz. “Providing this stability while delivering progress on Growing Forward is another example of this Government’s commitment to put farmers first.”

Ontario producers need ongoing access to programs that can help them achieve a prosperous and profitable future,” said Minister Dombrowsky. “Managing the smooth transition from APF to Growing Forward will provide certainty for our farmers and all our partners.”

Consultations will continue so that Growing Forward programs are developed with the needs of the sector in mind. “This gives us the time we need to ensure farmers have the voice they deserve in program design,” said Minister Ritz.

Farmers for Justice calls Canadian Wheat Board “Un-Canadian”

“The root of the issues for the Western Canadian farmers lies in democratic freedom; freedom that men have fought and died for.  What is happening these days is very un-Canadian.”

April 2, 2008 -– As Ian White, new CEO of the CWB settles into his first week behind his desk, Farmers for Justice is hopeful his ear is attuned to “more than the same tired voices we’ve heard repeatedly,” says FFJ spokesperson Colleen Bianchi.

And they have reason to be hopeful.  White’s extensive agriculture background includes senior and high level executive positions with a variety of Australian agribusiness companies.  Australia maintains a transparent and accountable wheat board with marketing choice.

“This is not about money,” Bianchi said.  “It’s about fundamental rights.  Western Canadian farmers are being denied the same rights as Quebec and Ontario farmers have enjoyed for years.  This is about democratic freedom – having marketing choice, and eliminating discrimination.  Any less than that is simply un-Canadian.”

Parliament is voting on Bill C-46, a bill which will amend the CWB Act.  There have been calls for a plebiscite on this Bill, but FFJ disagrees.

“A plebiscite is costly, and a recent plebiscite has already showed very clearly that only 38% of western farmers supported retention of the CWB monopoly,” continued Bianchi.  “What we are expecting is no different than what is already granted to the rest of the country: No Cost Export Licenses.”

“It is our hope that the decision of Ian White, the CWB Board of Directors, and the Canadian Parliament will accurately reflect the wishes and desires of Western farmers.  We want choice.  We want fairness.  We want freedom.  And we need to hear we have those rights by the August 1 new crop year.”

Wheat Board Elects Pro-Monopoly Chair

Hill faces ongoing struggle with Tory government

March 29, 2008 -- The farmer run Canadian Wheat Board has elected Larry Hill as its new chairman after Ken Ritter, who had led the marketing agency since 1999, stepped down this week.

"I know that it's not going to be an easy job, but it's an important thing that the CWB function in the best interest of producers," Hill said in an interview on Friday.

The wheat board, which had $4.95 billion in revenue last year, has been locked in a struggle with the federal government, which wants to end its monopoly on sales of Prairie wheat and barley to millers, malsters and export markets.

Hill, a farmer from Swift Current, SK, is a strong monopoly supporter and has been on the wheat board's board of directors since 1999.

Ritter, who farms at Kindersley, SK, became the first chairman when the governance of the 72-year-old wheat board was overhauled to give farmers more control over the agency, one of the world's largest grain marketers.  Farmers elect 10 directors to the board.  The government appoints five, including the CEO.  A narrow majority of elected, pro-monopoly directors now controls the board.

Ritter's term as a director is set to expire this year.  He said he stepped down so a new chairman could begin at the same time as the agency's new chief executive, Ian White, who takes the helm on Monday.

"it's a new beginning, a very fundamental change for the organization, and this is a s good a time as any to make that exchange" a the board of directors, Ritter told Reuters.

Before he joined the board, Ritter had advocated for a "dual market," where the wheat board would compete for farmers' grain with other buyers.  But he changed his mind after joining the board, and became a staunch monopoly supporter, leading the fight against the Conservative government's push to change the agency's mandate.

Ritter said he is optimistic about the wheat board's future if farmers are allowed to continue to control it.

"If it's left in the hands of farmers, I think the board has a bright future.  If it's left in the hands of government, who know s - they have to answer that question," he said.

Reply to a Letter

April 22, 2008 -– Ken Ritter, former chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), responded to Art Mainil (an honourable farmer who has fought for farmers' freedom for years) over the issue of farmers freedom and the CWB ("Farmers do better with CWB", Leader-Post Letters, Mar 27.

In his letter, Ritter tactfully avoided the question of freedom. Instead, he referenced the fact that Quebec voted for a CWB single-desk marking system for wheat to support his argument to keep the CWB.

In this fact lies the essence of freedom. The Quebec farmers voted. The collective system in Quebec for marketing milling wheat is accountable to farmers and only to farmers.

Instituted in 2003 by a vote, it can be terminated by farmers by simple majority of 51 per cent.

Despite only 38 per cent of farmers in Western Canada supporting the retention of the CWB monopoly in the most recent plebiscite, we have not achieved change. Why? Because the CWB is not accountable to farmers (despite Ritter's rhetoric claiming falsely it is).

The CWB is, always has been, and remains accountable to the government of Canada, which is why MPs are now voting on the change that farmers already supported in the plebescite held last year. If we had the same system as Quebec, the CWB would be gone, long gone.

Western farmers have been under the War Measures Act, which instituted the monopoly system in 1943 by the Parliament of Canada. And despite farmers going to jail and being branded as criminals by the very country that imprisoned them in the 1990, and a vote that clearly stated we were done with the institution and the attempts of the federal Conservative government to let freedom reign, we cannot attain freedom to chose, which is all we've been seeking -- for years.

The CWB is a violation of the freedom of western farmers, who want to chose how they sell the wheat and barley the produce on their farms.

And, yes, in Ontario they can chose. And in Quebec, they can vote.

For western farmers, the Parliament of Canada will decide how just that is.

The CWB monopoly discriminated against western farmers' rights and freedoms.

Yes, the CWB is only in Western Canada and, yes, farmers in the rest of Canada are treated very differently.

To think that my uncles died for freedom in the same war that took away farmers' rights.

Vicki Dutton
Paynton, SK

Farm Groups Rail Against Railway Profit

March 26, 2008 -- Canadian railways are reaping unreasonable profits, farm groups said yesterday, releasing a study they said should nudge the federal government to investigate what it costs rail carriers to ship grain.

Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway get a 50% return on the variable costs, according to estimates by rain analyst John Edsforth.

That's more than double what they were allowed to earn before rail laws were overhauled in 2000, and twice what they would earn if there was more competition, Edsforth said in a study commissioned by the Canadian Wheat Board.

Farm groups said railways make at least $100 million a year in excessive profits, or about $9,000 from an average farmer's annual $50,000 freight bill.

"We're paying an extra $9,000 (per farm) that currently has been going toward CN and CP shareholders," Manitoba farmer Ian Wishart said at an elevator northwest of Winnipeg where tractor-trailers unloaded wheat and canola.

A spokesman for Canadian National, the country's largest railway, which has complained it was being hurt financially by "creeping re-regulation" of its grain transportation business, dismissed the complaints.

China: Major Economic Driver

China has slightly over one-fifth of the world population, and with a rapidly growing middle class, it is a major economic driver in the global market.  China is now the world's largest producer and consumer of agri-food products.  Its emergence as a key competitor in some markets, and as a market destination in others, is of considerable interest to the Canadian agri-food sector.  This issue of the Bi-weekly Bulletin examines some key elements of China's agricultural sector and looks at the prospects of increased trade between Canada and China.

Ritz Calls for Producer Action

March 6, 2008

I want to personally thank you for your support of this government's commitment to bring marketing freedom to western Canadian grain producers.

I have been working hard, alongside Prime Minister Stephen Harper and my Conservative colleagues, to make that commitment a reality.  I am very pleased to inform you that I have introduced legislation in the House of Commons that will allow western barley producers the freedom to market their grain outside of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

Producers across the Prairies have been calling for choice, and we are listening.  We are, however, in an uphill battle against an Opposition that would prefer to see western Canadian farmers shackled to the monopoly rather than making their own marketing choices.  Today, I am calling on you to make your voice heard and let the Opposition know that you will not stand by while they continue to obstruct your freedom.

We are at a critical crossroads.  In a time when world grain prices are skyrocketing, it is a shame to watch wheat and barley producers turn to crops outside the hold of the monopoly when they could be taking advantage of a thriving wheat and barley market.

Together, we have a mandate to enact choice for grain producers.  Now is the time to make your voice heard.  It is our goal to bring marketing freedom to the Prairies for barley producers by August 1, 2008.  To do this, the Opposition needs to hear from you today.  Call the Liberal, Bloc and NDP members of Parliament and let them know that you deserve and demand the freedom the rest of Canadian producers take for granted.

Again, thank you for your hard work in helping us bring marketing freedom to Western Canada.

Sincerely,
Gerry Ritz, PC, MP

Make your voice heard to these people:

The Honourable Stephane Dion
Leader of the Official Opposition
Phone (Legislature): 613-996-5789
Fax (Legislature): 613-996-6562
750 Marcel-Laurin Blvd, Suite 440
Saint-Laurent, QB  H4M 2M4
Phone (Constituency): 514-335-6655
Fax (Constituency): 514-335-2712
Email: dions@parl.gc.ca 
The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Liberal Party House Leader
Phone (Legislature): 613-947-1153
Fax (Legislature): 613-996-9790
310 University Park Drive
Regina, SK  S4V 0Y8
Phone (Constituency): 306-585-2202
Fax (Constituency): 306-585-2280
Email: goodale.r@parl.gc.ca 
The Honourable Jack Layton
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Phone (Legislature): 613-995-7224
Fax (Legislature): 613-995-4565
221 Broadview Avenue, Suite 100
Toronto, ON   M4M 2G3
Phone (Constituency): 416-405-8914
Fax (Constituency): 416-405-8918
Email: layton.j@parl.gc.ca 
Mr. Gilles Duceppe
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Phone (Legislature): 613-992-6779
Fax (Legislature): 613-954-2121
1200 Papineau Avenue, Suite 350
Montreal, QB   H2K 4R5
Phone (Constituency): 514-522-1339
Fax (Constituency): 514-522-9899
Email: duceppe.g@parl.gc.ca 
The Honourable Wayne Easter
Liberal Party Agriculture Critic
Phone (Legislature): 613-992-2406
Fax (Legislature): 613-995-7408
Box 70
Hunter River, PEI  C0A 1N0
Phone (Constituency): 902-964-2428
Fax (Constituency): 902-964-3242
Email: easter.w@parl.gc.ca 
Mr. Pat Martin
NDP Canadian Wheat Board Critic
Phone (Legislature): 613-992-5308
Fax (Legislature): 613-992-2890
892 Sargent Avenue
Winnipeg, MB   R3E 0C7
Phone (Constituency): 204-984-1675
Fax (Constituency): 204-984-1676
Email: martin.pat@parl.gc.ca 
Mr. Alex Atamanenko
NDP Agriculture Critic
Phone (Legislature): 613-996-8036
Fax (Legislature): 613-943-0922
337 Columbia Avenue
Castlegar, BC   V1N 1G6
Phone (Constituency): 250-365-2792
Fax (Constituency): 250-365-2793
Email: atamanenko.a@parl.gc.ca 
Mr. Andre Bellavance
Bloc Agriculture Critic
Phone (Legislature): 613-995-1554
Fax (Legislature): 613-995-2026
599 Simoneau Blvd
Asbestos, QB   J1T 4G7
Phone (Constituency): 819-879-6161
Fax (Constituency): 819-879-1166
Email: bellavance.a@parl.gc.ca 

CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF MP TELEPHONE NUMBERS

What the CWB is Doing for YOU!!
Based on a 1500 acre farm in the Killarney area

Canadian Farmer price under CWB marketing

Prices as of Jan. 9/08

Crop Yield Total Bushels x CWB Pro Total
500 ac Canola 30 15,000 $11.00 $165,000
300 ac Winter Wheat 60 18,000 $6.83 $122,940
400 ac Red Spring 38 15,200 $7.51 $114,152
300 ac Barley Malt 70 21,000 $4.07 $85,470
Gross Income $487,562

**Possibility of getting LESS than CWB Pro is likely.

Canadian Farmer price without CWB marketing

Prices as of Jan. 9/08

Crop Yield Total Bushels x CWB Pro Total
500 ac Canola 30 15,000 $11.00 $165,000
300 ac Winter Wheat 60 18,000 $9.73 $175,140
400 ac Red Spring 38 15,200 $10.23 $155,496
300 ac Barley Malt 70 21,000 $6.00 $126,000
Gross Income $621,636

**CANOLA price is the same on both sides of the border without CWB control

US price is based on BTR Farmer's Elevator, ND and Bottineau Elevator, ND.  These are all within a 90 mile radius of Killarney.  There are no US subsidies included in these prices.  Grain prices as of January 9, 2008.

Loss of income with CWB marketing: $134,074

"Thank you, CWB, for what YOU think is a "great" job of marketing our grain."  - A Canadian Farmer

Contact Your Local Member of Parliament

Farmers for Justice urges producers who are not happy with the monopoly:
 
  • Write letters and emails to the MP's and the Ministers -- including the Liberal and NDP Member's of Parliament
     
  • Hold your grain back from the CWB until the very end
     
  • Do not sign up right away for the different contracts until the last day
Minister Ritz Introduces Proposed Amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act

May 27, 2008 –- The Government of Canada is introducing amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act to make sure that board members are elected only by Western Canadian farmers who are commercially producing grain. The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, introduced Bill C-57 in the House of Commons today. 
 
“You earn the right to call yourself a farmer by growing crops, not by filing paperwork,” said Minister Ritz. “This Government is making sure the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) listens to real farmers by introducing this legislation to give farmers a stronger voice in director elections.” 
 
The current legislation allows any producer to vote in director elections. Many producers who are named in a permit book have retired, rented out their land, or only grow small amounts of grain as a hobby. 
 
This legislation will ensure voters in CWB director elections are genuine farmers who have produced at least 120 tonnes of grain in either of the two crop years preceding the election. The Government of Canada intends to have these eligibility requirements in place for the director elections in the fall of 2008. 
 
“The CWB must be responsive to farmers and this Government’s legislation delivers that accountability,” said Minister Ritz.

Marketing Choice Meetings

Over 300 farmers, representing three provinces, gathered in Weyburn on March 6, 2008.  The movie "Against The Grain" ran first and the room was in silence during the whole time.

Farmers were then given the opportunity to speak and gave their opinions as to what action should be next. Most were concerned whether the Government Barley Bill will happen before the new crop year.

There was discussion on what the next step for farmers should be.  The meeting went "in-camera" so the media then left.  There were some conclusions made and the plan has already been started.

Support Dips for Canada Wheat Board Monopoly: Poll

June 6, 2008 -- Fewer Western Canadian farmers support the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on wheat and barley sales than did a year ago, according to an annual poll released by the farmer-run agency on Friday. 
 
For wheat, 57 percent of farmers said the CWB should keep its government-granted monopoly on sales to millers and export markets, while 39 percent said the market should be open. 
 
Last year, 61 percent of farmers supported the monopoly, while 35 percent wanted it to end. 
 
For barley, 52 percent of farmers said the market should open, with 40 percent wanting the CWB to retain its monopoly on sales to maltsters and export markets. 
 
Farmers were split last year, with 48 percent supporting the barley monopoly and 46 percent wanting it to end. 
 
"If you look at the 10-year average, the numbers haven't changed much," Larry Hill, chairman of the CWB's board, told Reuters. 
 
Hill said recent increases in cash grain prices have caused some dissatisfaction with the CWB's pooled prices, which give farmers returns based on sales made through a whole year. 
 
But a federal government's "gag order" has restricted the CWB from doing more to explain its prices, Hill said. 
 
"Our opponents have been going full-blast, so that may have an effect as well," Hill said. 
 
The CWB and the federal government will square off over the gag order in court on June 16. 
 
The CWB had C$4.95 billion ($4.85 billion) in revenue last year, making it one of the world's largest grain traders. 
 
Its monopoly powers on sales of Western Canadian grain have long been an irritant to international competitors. Canada's minority Conservative government also wants to dismantle the CWB's "single desk." 
 
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the poll supports his plans to make the CWB optional. "There is no longer any doubt how strong and deep support for barley marketing freedom now runs among Western Canadian farmers," Ritz said in a release. 
 
The CWB has said it could not compete in a dual market because it does not own handling facilities. 
 
In a second set of questions, when offered the additional option of a dual market, 41 percent chose a dual market for barley, while 26 percent preferred an open market and 27 percent supported the CWB. 
 
For wheat, 45 percent of farmers picked the dual market, with 12 percent wanting an open market and 42 percent the CWB. 
 
The government said the question shows a combined total of 67 percent of farmers want "marketing freedom" for barley and 57 percent for wheat. 
 
But Hill rejected combining the results, and said he believes farmers want the CWB to find more flexible pricing options while keeping the clout of the monopoly. 
 
"This poll says, 'Keep looking,"' said Hill, a farmer from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. "What this poll doesn't say is, 'Get rid of the single desk."' 
 
The survey of 1,300 farmers was done in early March. 
 
Farmers showed strong support for a new malting barley program designed to track cash markets, Hill said. The program has been rejected by most maltsters and grain companies. 
 
Most also said farmers should decide the CWB's future, not the federal government.

Barley Group Calls Rally Friday for Reform

Farm groups are turning their attention from the courts back to the Commons on the issue of Prairie barley marketing.

In news releases Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board and Western Barley Growers Association reacted briefly to Tuesday's court ruling against the federal government's plans to deregulate barley marketing by order-in-council, and focused on Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's plan to attempt the same outcome by legislation. 

WBGA president Jeff Nielsen of Olds, Alta., urged the minority Conservative government to introduce legislative reforms "immediately" and urged Prairie barley growers to show support for reform by rallying Friday (Feb. 29) at the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina at 12:30 p.m.

"Going to legislative reforms, and introducing them as soon as possible, is a priority, as we need to see these changes done in time for the new crop year Aug. 1," WBGA vice-president Tom Hewson of Langbank, Sask., said in the same release.

"We need the support of the opposition parties to acknowledge the fact that without the ability to see dramatic growth in barley now, we do risk serious economic harm to all of Canada."

Ritz recently said he would introduce such legislation by the end of this month. However, he added, the CWB "has sufficiently stalled things long enough" and will "survive" until after the next federal election when, he predicted, the Conservatives come back with a majority. Then, he said, "all bets are off."

Survival for a Conservative bill to remove barley from the CWB's marketing jurisdiction is seen as unlikely at best in the current minority Commons.  Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told reporter Allan Dawson in Thursday's Manitoba Co-operator that the party couldn't support any bill that essentially calls for "evisceration" of the CWB or violation of farmers' control of the board.

The NDP also opposes such legislation and the Bloc Quebecois, which backs supply management in other farm commodities, has also expressed opposition.

Removing Prairie barley from the CWB's single marketing desk would allow it to become a "crop of choice," rather than one of last resort and low return -- and more barley production would in turn encourage value-added development, Nielsen said.

"Without growth in the Canadian barley sector, we will see economic losses to those value-added sectors that rely on what once was our supply of top-quality barley for their needs, namely our maltsters and brewers; and, without a constant quality supply of feed barley, shackle our already struggling livestock feeding sector," he said.

"Back in Court"
Meanwhile, the Friends of the CWB -- the group that first launched the Federal Court challenge of the federal government's June 2007 order-in-council for an open barley market, leading to Ottawa's unsuccessful appeal Tuesday -- warned Ritz in a separate release that an attempt to legislate Prairie barley deregulation would wind up "back in court."

The group said any legislative amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act would first require consultation with the CWB's board of directors and a producer vote in favour of excluding barley from the CWB's single desk.

The Friends group, spearheaded by National Farmers Union president Stewart Wells and former CWB director Wilf Harder, said Tuesday that it advised Ritz "not to waste any more farmers' or taxpayers' money on flawed plebiscites, misleading ad campaigns or ill-advised court appeals."

Majority of Farmers Demanding Market Freedom

June 6, 2008 -- A poll conducted by a long-time Liberal insider on behalf of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) confirms Western Canadian farmers overwhelmingly support barley marketing freedom. A closer look at the CWB survey results released today shows Western Canadian farmers’ demands for barley marketing freedom are even stronger than CWB Chair Larry Hill stated during his appearance at the Senate Committee on Agriculture yesterday. 

“There is no longer any doubt how strong and deep support for barley marketing freedom now runs among Western Canadian farmers,” said the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

When Mr. Hill appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee he said 57 per cent of Western Canadian farmers are demanding marketing freedom for barley. What the CWB’s own survey actually says is that 57 per cent of Western Canadian farmers want marketing freedom for wheat.

The CWB’s survey actually shows that nearly 70 per cent of Western Canadian farmers are demanding barley marketing freedom. In fact, Mr. Herle specifically states in the survey that “dual marketing is the preference among farmers for barley marketing” and “if they cannot have a dual market, most would prefer an open market to the single desk.” 

“The results of this survey are so clear the Liberals cannot even spin the numbers coming from their own insider to support their ideological crusade against Western Canadian barley farmers,” said Minister Ritz.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and this Government are working hard to deliver barley marketing freedom and it is time for the Liberals to give Western Canadian barley farmers the freedom they are demanding by supporting Bill C-46.

Barley Marketing Uncertainty Continues

February 27, 2008 -- Members of the Western Barley Growers Association are greatly disappointed that yesterday in Winnipeg the Court of Appeal denied overturning last summer's lower court ruling which rejected barley freedom on August 1.  WBGA members also saw the Court of Appeal deny its intervention arguments on a constitutional challenge of the CWB Act.  WBGA would like to thank the ten barley producers that allowed their names to stand in our efforts for intervention.

"Today's ruling does nothing to promote and grow barley production in western Canada," says Jeff Nielsen, President WBGA.  "Our Canadian malting industry is in a serious position.  It cannot attract barley acres to fulfill its needs unless they are able to show true market signals and price transparency.  Without removing barley from the CWB's monopoly completely, we will see fewer acres seeded to barley, and less malt barley production.  I call upon Canadian Agriculture Minister Ritz, and our Government of Canada to introduce legislative reforms immediately."

"Removing barley through legislation now, will allow barley itself to be a crop of choice, providing solid net returns to producers; not one seeded as a commodity of last resort and low return.  This will allow more growth in malt production Canada, growth in jobs in Canada, and growth in barley research and development in Canada.  This growth in barley, once it is completely removed from the CWB Act, will be a catalyst towards building strong economic returns right from the producer in western Canada to the brewery worker in Montreal.  Without growth in the Canadian barley sector, we will see economic losses to those value added sectors that rely on, what once was our supply of top quality barley for their needs, namely our maltsters and brewers; and without a constant quality supply of feed barley, shackle our already struggling livestock feeding sector.  Saying that, I encourage those that have fought hard against barley freedom, to work with us now in promoting the necessary legislative reforms," concludes Nielsen.

"Going to legislative reforms, and introducing them as soon as possible, is a priority, as we need to see these changes done in time for the new crop year August 1," states Tom Hewson, WBGA Vice President.  "We need the support of the opposition parties to acknowledge the fact that without the ability to see dramatic growth in barley now, we do risk serious economic harm to all of Canada."

"Barley farmers have spoken, we want barley freedom, freedom where we can market our own barley, just as we do our canola, pulses, flax and oats," comments Doug McBain, WBGA Past President.  "How can members of the Opposition parties deny my personal rights to sell my own barley?"

WBGA is calling on farmers that want marketing freedom from across western Canada to meet at the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina, on Friday, February 29 at 12:30 pm.  We will be hosting a rally to show the Government of Canada the support they have for introducing the necessary legislative reforms now.

The CWB's Phony Numbers Game

June 30, 2008 -- One statistic concerning the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has always caused me wry amusement. When I first began covering the country's collectivist grain merchant more than a decade ago, it claimed to represent more than 120,000 farmers on the prairies. Today it boasts just 75,000.  
 
The amusing part is that this decline undermines the board's central argument for its own worth -- namely that there is strength in numbers; all prairie wheat and barley farmers must be lashed to the board's mast together or, as individuals, they would surely sink.  
 
But in just under 15 years, the number of farmers with permit books -- the licenses they need to sell their grain to the government, and only the government -- has fallen by almost half. If there is so much strength in numbers, how come farmers can be permitted to stop growing the grains that the wheat board markets?  
 
Seriously. When I first argued that the board should be voluntary, there were nearly 120,000 farmers pooling their wheat together under the CWB's "single-desk" selling model. I said, even if a quarter of them chose to market outside the board, that would still leave 90,000, more than enough to provide the strength through unity the board argued was essential.  
 
At the time, board supporters and PR types insisted 90,000 wouldn't do the trick. For their system to work, it had to include all 120,000.  
 
Over the intervening years, tens of thousands of farmers have left to grow non-board crops, such as oats, beans, flax and so on. Some have left farming altogether because the board wouldn't free them to sell independently the wheat or barley they grew on their own land, with their own labour, using their own resources. All that's left is 75,000 growers, far fewer than the 90,000 I was told a decade ago was too few to keep the board viable.  
 
Yet, still the board insists there is no room for farmers to sell their wheat except through the CWB.  
 
It's clear, then, the board has no idea what number of farmers is needed to keep it viable, and equally clear the number of farmers shackled to it doesn't matter to the board. What matters -- as it does to all bureaucratic, central-planning agencies -- is control and survival. The board is not interested in maximizing return to farmers as much as it interested in maintaining its iron grip over prairies grain sales and, thereby, ensuring its own continued existence.  
 
If the strength-in-numbers argument were valid, the board would not only be arguing for retention of its monopoly but for an addition law insisting no current wheat or barley grower should be permitted to switch to other crops, or, for that matter, to quit farming altogether.  
 
When I have made this argument before, I have been told it is preposterous, that the board would never dream of forcing farmers to keep farming crops they don't want to. But how is that any more preposterous than forcing them to sell the crops they have chosen to grow only to the board, or face jail time?  
 
The simple fact is, there is no difference. The coercion is only a matter of degrees.  
 
If the board is still as viable at 75,000 farmers as it was at 120,000 
-- and the board insists it is -- than it would be equally viable at 50,000 or 60,000, if those farmers content to take the risk of marketing their own grain were freed to do so.  
 
There is no legitimate argument -- economic or moral -- for permitting the board to retain its absolute control over prairie grain sales.  
 
In his letter to the editor last week about a column I wrote last Monday, CWB chairman Larry Hill said what I had written was full of inaccuracies. I'll concede there was one -- I had missed the appointment by the Conservative government of five pro-free-market directors to the board to replace the Liberals' five pro-monopoly appointees.  
 
I shouldn't have missed it and for that I apologize.  
 
But I reject Mr. Hill's contention that I am a free-speech hypocrite for arguing strenuously for the right to free expression for others, but not the board.  
 
I didn't write the headline that accompanied my piece, "Wheat board should remain silent." I said the wheat board should be made voluntary. That way, whatever money it spent on lobbying for its own existence would come only from those farmer-shareholders who agreed with that goal, rather than also from farmers who wanted out from under the board. What Mr. Hill and other board supporters want is the power for the CWB to be as coercive as government.

Lorne Gunter
National Post

Alberta Surface Rights Board Decision

Click here for the decision from the Alberta Surface Rights Board decision 2008/0016.

It seems that in Alberta we have one set of rules that govern Big Business and another set of rules that govern the peasants that occupy the land base of this province.

No doubt big oil will be prepared to spend millions of $ to appeal this $20.00 ruling by the Surface Rights Board, as is testified to by numerous decisions currently being appealed and funded by the obscene profits being pocketed by these companies.  This fact speaks volumes about the rape and pillage that the petroleum industry continues to  force upon the rural land base of Alberta.

We have an opportunity in the next 3 weeks to extract from the politicians, a commitment on what they are prepared to do regarding Annual Compensation on Pipelines.  They have failed to clarify the Land Agents Licensing Act, for three years in a row. This law now requires us to hire only Licensed Petroleum Land Agents to assist with negotiations.  Instead this government continues to steadfastly hide  behind the court system.  Maybe the time has come for the good people of rural Alberta request them to stand up and do what's right for once.  Empty promises do not cut the Mustard!

Wheat Board may have cost growers billions

August 7, 2008 -- For 73 years, the Canadian Wheat Board swore there was strength in numbers; that Western farmers, as a band of grain-pooling brothers, could stand firm against the exploitations of speculators and corporations; that as one of the world's biggest grain marketers, its clout commands premiums. Announcing last week that the board projects a record $7-billion in revenue this year, chairman Larry Hill handed credit directly to monopoly power. The "CWB was able to leverage its role as a single seller ... to achieve strong values for farmers" boasted his press release.

A new study by one of the world's top agronomics firms, Informa Economics, though, suggests the CWB isn't so mighty after all. Commissioned by the Alberta government and released the same day as Mr. Hill's announcement, it concluded the board succeeds no better than your average schmo when it comes to grain marketing. More damning, it calculates that growers would have gotten richer over the past several years from the open market, rather than being forced to sell to the board.

Freeing farmers from the CWB's monopolistic grip has been the federal Conservatives' plan since they were elected in 2006, rooted in Reform Party principles that Westerners deserve the same rights as their Eastern peers to freely sell a product of their labour. So far, their efforts have been frustrated. But this latest report may offer the most powerful ammunition yet in undermining the Canadian Wheat Board's entire raison d'etre.

"If you could show that year in, year out they get a higher return you might be able to argue, 'Well maybe there is a case for denying individual freedom,' " says Blair Rutter, executive director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, a pro-marketing-choice group. "If you can't even demonstrate that they get an above-average return, then what's their justification?" 

The CWB has studied the report for the past several days, preparing its response. In an e-mail, spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry said it may come as early as today and "would certainly refute its main conclusion."

This will be a tough thing to dismiss, though. Informa's reputation is as a top authoritative source for agronomics analysis. Based in Memphis, British owned, it has no dog in this policy fight; its good name (its parent firm is traded on the London exchange) is surely worth more than scoring political points in Canada with faulty studies.

Economists used a treasury of grain pricing data from the UN, USDA and published elevator and gate prices to analyze wheat board profitability using three different models (the CWB refused to share its own confidential sales figures, but controlling 95% of Canadian wheat and barley exports, national statistics come close). Every which way, the study found board taking home prices that, over time, came up short.

If the CWB ever was a market mover, it is no more, says David Reimann, Informa's vice-president. Producers in the former Soviet bloc export more wheat. Americans, too. Western Canada, suffering a heavier drop in wheat acreage than any exporting jurisdiction, slipped from 20% world market share in 1995 to 14%. Canadian barley, just 11%. "The CWB's relatively small share in the international market means it is unable to exert any real influence over global prices," the report states. It is a "price taker" -- meaning it gets the going rate. Anyone can manage that. And without the inefficiencies of the single-desk system, the authors estimate, Western producers could have made $2.25-billion-$3-billion more over the last five years in the open market.

That's Alberta's interest in fact-checking the CWB's claims, spending $50,000 on the report to do it; its producers have long favoured marketing choice (Saskatchewan recently joined the campaign, too, leaving Manitoba's NDP the board's only provincial ally). "The evidence is that the current system is costing [farmers] money," says Alberta Agriculture spokesman Lucas Warren. "We want to provide the best economic opportunity for them."

The federal Conservatives' approach, though, has faced accusations of being more ideological than practical. Attempts to, as a first step, let barley farmers opt out of the CWB have been thwarted by an aggressive, activist board. Directors overturned the government's tries at regulatory changes in court. Opposition parties refuse to support legislation deregulating barley, persuaded by the CWB that a majority of producers prefer the status quo and believe it makes more than going it alone.

But the board's own surveys have shot the first claim: 67% of barley farmers polled this year oppose its monopoly. And if the CWB can't offer one heck of a compelling argument to controvert Alberta's new and potent evidence that board collectivism actually hurts farmers, not helps them, it's going to have a tough time selling its strength in numbers story any longer.

Important Reading

I suggest to everyone that they read a book entitled Stupid To The Last Drop by William Marsden. I do not really like the title because I like to try and keep my thinking balanced but the historical accounting is extremely interesting and as you get into chapters 5 and 6 discussions of the National Petroleum Council that advises the US government shows the incredible task ahead of CAPLA.

The president of Enbridge Pipelines, TransCanada Corporation and EnCana are on this council. I guess I want people to understand the influences we are up against and the thinking of North American government and the effort that will be used against CAPLA as we try to protect landowners in the future.

We need to protect our safety, our environment, our land, our farms and our families. We are not against this industry but we need to stand up and protect ourselves as this industry and North American governments try to infringe their responsibilities onto our shoulders.

I guess I want to start talking about CAPLA goals in the future and where I see our interests best directed to get our issues addressed. We also need to understand that we are up against the biggest lobby group in the world and the only way we can influence in the future is on 2 fronts..... we need to get all landowners and the public on side and then secondly considering the lobby we are up against we need substantial funds to support court actions. How are we going to do this?????????

CAPLA will continue to participate in the NEB processes but with no funding for our participation in their new Land Matters Consultation Initiative, they have basically put us in the arena, but with our hands tied and duct tape on any real influence. We have no choice but to go through the motions, but at the same time we must continue to take the actions that we know work. That is organizing, spreading the word about our issues, interventions, speaking at meetings, using the present Board processes in ways they haven't been used in the past, and fund raising for court and constitutional challenges.

As farmers and landowners we have no choice but to protect our land and to be treated fairly. It is about fair compensation, environmental protection, our safety and protection of our rights and in particular our right to farm.

No Deal Is a Bad Deal for Canadian Farmers

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) stated emphatically today that no new deal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) would be a bad deal for Canadian farmers.

Without a new agreement, the future competitiveness of Canada 's agriculture industry is at stake. The current international trading market remains significantly distorted by a range of barriers - including restrictive tariffs, arbitrary limits on market access, domestic support programs and export subsidies. Combined with the weakened U.S. dollar, which puts an additional burden on all Canadian exporters, the pressure on Canadian agricultural exporters has never been higher. Over 92% (210,000) of Canadian farmers are directly dependent on export markets - they either export their products or sell them domestically at prices set by international marketplaces.

"Billions are at stake for export dependent agriculture," says Darcy Davis, President of CAFTA. "To not get a new WTO agreement would mean tariffs can be raised and domestic supports increased to further distort international trade.  Canada 's trade-dependent agriculture sectors, by far the majority of our agriculture producers, need a new deal not just to increase our access to world markets, but to maintain what we've got. There is no status quo."

CAFTA delegates remain in Geneva where international ministers of trade are attempting to hammer out an agreement on a package of compromise parameters for agricultural tariff and subsidy reductions. Failure to reach an agreement would mean failure for the Doha Round of WTO negotiations and the likelihood that no new WTO agreement would be reached for years.

Minister Ritz Announces Appointment of New President and CEO of the CWB

January 30, 2008 -- The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced the appointment of Ian White as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Mr. White has been appointed for a three-year term starting March 31, 2008.

“I am pleased that Mr. White has accepted the appointment of President and CEO of the CWB,” said Minister Ritz. “With the strong support both this Government and the CWB have given Mr. White, I trust both will give him the freedom and the tools he will require to work in the interests of Western Canadian producers." 

Mr. White’s appointment is fully supported by both the Government of Canada and the Canadian Wheat Board.

"The CWB, in conjunction with the government, engaged in a rigorous process and extensive search to find the best candidate for the position, and we are confident that Mr. White, with his comprehensive background and experience, will provide strong leadership to the corporation," said Ken Ritter, Chair of the Search Committee and the CWB Board of Directors.

Mr. White will provide strong leadership as the CWB faces a number of challenging issues, including farmers’ desire for change.

A biographical note for Mr. White is attached.

Biographical Note – Ian H. White

Ian White has extensive professional experience at a senior executive level in the agribusiness industry in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Mr. White has an in-depth understanding of agribusiness with wide-ranging experience in both international and domestic commodity marketing, customer relationships, and grower relations, in both statutory and non-statutory marketing environments in Australia, and North America.

Mr. White has served as a senior executive at a number of agribusiness companies in Canada, the United States and Australia, including Queensland Cotton Limited, Defiance Mills Limited, Grainco Limited, AgPro Grain (a subsidiary of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool) and Elders Grain. Most recently, Mr. White has occupied the position of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Sugar Limited, a multi-billion dollar industry-owned marketing company.

Mr. White holds a Bachelor of Economics (with honours) from the University of Sydney.

Canadians expect fall election, many want change of government; poll

August 28, 2008 -- A new poll suggests a majority of Canadians like where the Conservatives have been taking the country, but are bracing for an election and wouldn't mind having a change of government all the same.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests the Conservatives and Liberals remain in a dead heat in popular support going into an expected fall election.

In the last week, the Liberals stood at 34 per cent, the Conservatives at 33 per cent.

The New Democrats were well back, at 15 per cent support, followed by the Green Party at 11 per cent and nine per cent for the Bloc Quebecois.

A majority of respondents _ 55 per cent _ said they believe the country is headed in the right direction.

Still, nearly half of the more than 1,000 Canadians surveyed - 47 per cent - said Canada would be best served by a new government.

As well, nearly two thirds of respondents said they expect there will be a federal election this fall.

Roughly half of those asked, 48 per cent, said a fall vote would be a good thing. Thirty five per cent said they aren't keen on going to the polls.

"Canadians are gearing up for an election,'' said Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson.

"Although they weren't sure they want one, they seem mostly accepting of the idea that there will be one.''

The poll, conducted from Aug. 21 through Aug. 24, had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

CWB CEO Appointment

January 24, 2008 -- The Canadian government is expected to name Ian White, currently chief executive of Australia's Queensland Sugar Ltd, as the new CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest grain exporters, the Western Producer newspaper reported in its January 24 issue.  

White, described as a strong advocate for trade liberalization by the newspaper, was chosen from three candidates by a CWB-government committee, and accepted by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, the newspaper said. 

Ritz was expected to take the recommendation to federal cabinet soon for formal approval, the article said.

US can block mad cow testing

August 29, 2008 -- The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease. Mad cow disease has been linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Great Britain. Only three cases have been reported in the U.S., all involving cows, not humans.

A federal judge ruled last year that Creekstone must be allowed to conduct the test because the Agriculture Department can only regulate disease "treatment." Since there is no cure for mad cow disease and the test is performed on dead animals, the judge ruled, the test is not a treatment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that ruling, saying diagnosis can be considered part of treatment.

"And we owe USDA a considerable degree of deference in its interpretation of the term," Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote.

The case was sent back to the district court, where Creekstone can make other arguments

WBGA Applauds Minister Ritz's Plan for Producer, Industry and CWB Barley Meeting

January 17, 2008 -- "Today's call by Minister Ritz to invite CWB Chairman Ken Ritter and CEO Greg Arason to Ottawa to sit down and come to a resolution with barley farmers, our industry partners and themselves is a giant step forward in this current impasse" says Jeff Nielsen president of the Western Barley Growers Association (WBGA).

"Clearly our government is listening to producers and the need to move barley forward to which we make the decisions on who, what, where and when we can sell our own barley.  The CashPlus malt barley program recently announced by the CWB did not fulfill the needs of the producers, our malters or even our grain trade," continues Nielsen.  "We cannot wait any longer for a solution to this refusal of the CWB to do what farmers voted for and what even their own internal surveys have shown is needed."

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan account for 85% + of the total barley production in western Canada and 90% of the malt barley selected.  Both Alberta and Saskatchewan governments along with the government of British Columbia support the call for barley producers to be able to market their barley how ever they choose.

Alberta alone has over a million acres of high quality barley that the CWB can not attract as these producers do not have permit books.  This has frustrated not only our domestic malsters but our grain trade that sees excellent malt barley yet cannot handle it.  In the limited consultations the CWB had with select producers, on the CashPlus plan, it did provide them the controlled - desired results that the CWB wanted.  It is doubtful the CWB consulted with those producers that do not take out permit books, or the 62% of barley producers that voted for choice.

With an open fully transparent barley marketing system, pricing signals and marketing options will encourage and build a grower - end user relationship, with no middle man needed.  This in itself will encourage growth in barley research and development.  Growing the ability of barley farmers to ensure the quality barley our industry partners' need, our vibrant livestock feeding sector and grow in new areas such as food fractionation and ethanol, that can increase returns to the producer.

"We need to know that we are going to be able to market our barley freely for the new crop year now" states Doug McBain, WBGA past president.  "The CWB is holding our grain trade and domestic malster's hostage by not allowing them to have their customers sign contracts with them for next falls barley crop.  By doing this, the CWB is financially hurting every barley farmer in Western Canada, as these industry partners are loosing sales, thereby farmers are losing any potential gain on these sales."

"Farmers are looking at other crops rather than barley, crops that are showing high farm gate returns for next fall; all we ask is that we get that chance with barley as well," concludes Nielsen.

WBGA thanks Minister Ritz and our government for their commitment to choice.  As stated in last fall's Throne speech, "Our government will recognize the views of farmers, as expressed in the recent plebiscite on barley, by enacting marketing choice."

WTO Talks Fail Again

by Owen Roberts

Negotiators everywhere are trying to pick up the pieces after the most recent round of international trade talks failed again. But maybe the farm industry should be campaigning to pick up the negotiators instead, and throw them out.

The World Trade Organization, which is entrusted globally with trying to promote trade stability in 153 member countries, is proving ineffective. Attempts to be democratic, conciliatory and flexible in this recent "round" of talks — which has gone on for seven years — simply did not work.

Frustration is running high. Even a normally patient country such as Canada, which has long prided itself in being a moderate at these talks (in part, because its pockets weren't deep enough to lead the agenda), dug in its heels at the talks in Geneva and bucked global demands for less trade protectionism. So did India and some developing nations, which want the right to shelter certain agricultural products against cheap imports.

For decades, Canada has protected dairy, poultry and egg farmers by charging huge tariffs against imports of these commodities. Against significant pressure from abroad, Canada pounded the table at the WTO for the right to such protectionism, calling it an entitlement, and a necessity. Without protection, Canada said, these commodities would be buried by unfair competition — even though other farm sectors manage to survive.

Negotiating is tough when all parties are entrenched. As a result, now, there’s no deal. Negotiators may never be able to agree to a meaningful pact that puts all countries on equal footing as far as access to markets is concerned, or support for exports.

Is it really over? This drive toward a negotiated ceasefire in international trade wars began as an attempt to get the world's agricultural superpowers to stop heaping huge subsidies on their farmers. It was treasury versus treasury, not farmer versus farmer. Some countries vowed to change, but their offers were met with suspicion and doubt. Little changed that would lead to trade peace or an equal playing field among all countries.

Through these years, a northern Ontario farmer named Jack Wilkinson kept producers around the world focused on fairness and optimism, as the long-standing president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. His tenure has finally ended, but he leaves a legacy of hope that where bureaucrats failed, farmers may succeed.

Globally, farmers want conditions that will enable them to feed their own people, and others. They are united in their pleas for help with huge problems, many of them environmental and social, such as global warming and desertification, as well as rural migration and rural health.

Unfortunately, on a world scale, another battle is also being lost: that is, the fight against poverty. Although those of us in developed countries are well fed, nurturing local food programs and enjoying long lives, overall poverty is escalating.

The Population Reference Bureau (www.prb.org/Home.aspx) issued its annual state of the union report last week, noting a widening in what it calls the demographic divide — the inequality in the population and health profiles of rich and poor countries.

It says two sharply different patterns of population growth are evident: little growth or even decline in most wealthy countries, and continued rapid population growth in the world's poorest countries.

Bob Friesen, former president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says while farmers devote attention locally to their farms and communities, they must also keep international trade and development in mind.

This is truer now more than ever.

Governments can't figure out how to feed the world. No matter how much we urge them to increase foreign aid, nothing much happens. Global deals can't get done by those we've traditionally entrusted to succeed. Maybe farmers can get it done.

Crop Insurance Set to Change Across Alberta

As Alberta farmers make plans for the growing season ahead, AFSC expects many will be pleased to hear major changes to crop insurance are being unveiled for 2008.

Farmers Asked for Changes
"Over the last few years, farmers have been asking us to change the way their crop insurance coverage is calculated. We've consulted with hundreds of farmers province-wide, and they tell us it's too complicated," says Chris Dyck, Manager of Program Development for Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), the provincial Crown Corporation that administers crop insurance in Alberta. 

"One of their biggest complaints is that crop production on neighboring farms affects how much insurance coverage they receive. Producers want crop insurance based only on what is produced on their own farm - no one else's," he explains. 

"We are now announcing a new program for 2008 that answers those concerns for annual crops."

Neighbors' Yields No Longer Affect Coverage
The new program - called Individual Coverage - is quite simple, says Dyck. It takes a producer's average yields for each crop (over a five to 15-year period) and uses that to set their insurance coverage. "If their yield has been 40 bu/acre for the last 15 years, we'll give them coverage based on that number. We no longer factor in yields of other farmers in the area."

The old system - called Indexed Coverage - was much more complicated, says Dyck. It compared a producer's crop yields to the average yields of farmers in their "Risk Area". The province is divided into 22 Risk Areas - each spanning dozens of townships.

"So for example, if a farmer produced 10% more than the average yield in their Risk Area, we gave them an Index number of 1.1. We then used a complex formula to create a "normal" long-term yield for each Risk Area and multiplied that number with each farmer's Index."

Old System was Confusing
"Most farmers find the old Indexing system very confusing and don't understand where their final coverage comes from," explains Dyck. "Many feel the "normal" yield in their Risk Area was too low because it averaged in farmers with poor crop yields. They argue that dragged their coverage levels far below actual production levels on their farm."

At the same time, they complain those below-average farmers received higher coverage than they deserved under Indexing, because the average yields in their Risk Area were propped up by farmers above the curve, says Dyck.

87% of Farmers Want Change
Dyck says 87% of farmers that AFSC consulted with across Alberta requested Individual Coverage because it links more directly to their own production. AFSC expects coverage will increase slightly or stay the same on two-thirds of crops insured under Individual Coverage. No coverage on any crop will drop more than 5% or increase more than 15% during the first year of transition to the new program, says Dyck.

Higher Yields = Higher Coverage
"I think farmers will see this as a good move. By personalizing their coverage and making it more responsive to what each farm produces, it encourages producers to adopt the most advanced farming techniques to increase their yields." They'll be motivated by the fact that higher yields now lead directly to higher coverage, says Risk Management Specialist Ted Darling, with Alberta Agriculture and Food.

Two important features of the old Indexing system will remain under Individual Coverage: cushioning and trending. Cushioning reduces the impact of natural disasters like drought and hail on coverage levels, says Dyck. "If you have a wreck and get a zero yield, we'll replace that zero with 70% of your normal yield to keep your coverage levels stable." Trending means AFSC will boost the older yields in a farmer's average yield records to account for advances in technology and new seed varieties.

Risk Area Boundary Lines
Under Indexing, some farmers had fields in two different Risk Areas and ended up with two different coverage levels for the same crop. "The difference could be 30 bu/acre of coverage on one field, and 40 bu/acre on another field. It all depended on the yields of other farmers in each Risk Area. With Individual Coverage, those boundary lines will no longer be an issue," says Dyck.

Farmers who grow a new crop or buy crop insurance for the first time won't get Individual Coverage right away, he adds. "We don't have yield records for them yet, so we'll start by basing coverage on the normal yields in their township. Each year, we'll blend their new yield records into the formula until we have five years of their records on file. Then we'll set coverage using only their production numbers."

Producer Meetings
AFSC is putting the final touches on the new program and will post more information on its website at www.afsc.ca in January. AFSC will hold informal meetings about Individual Coverage for producers who request it once crop insurance renewal packages are mailed out. Producers can sign up for a meeting by contacting their local AFSC office.

CPAC Special - Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s Agriculture Debate 
 
CPAC provides online coverage from Ottawa where the Canadian Federation of Agriculture hosts its all-candidates agriculture debate. Moderated by Hugh Maynard, the debate features Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Gerry Ritz, Liberal Agriculture critic, Wayne Easter, the NDP’s Tony Martin, and members from the Bloc Québécois and Green Party. See how the parties respond to questions from farmers across Canada and how they will address the sector’s concerns such as food safety, marketing, foreign subsidies and more.  
 
Click Here to find the CPAC online streaming video that can be watched.

Agriculture Ministers Announce First Stage in Action Plan on Support for Canada's Livestock Sector

December 19, 2007 -- Ministers of Agriculture from federal, provincial and territorial governments have announced the first stage in a national action plan to help with the serious pressures faced by Canada's cattle and hog producers. This first stage was developed after intensive discussions with industry, and is based on support from existing business risk management programs. Ministers committed to accelerate cattle and hog producers' access to these programs and encouraged them to take maximum advantage of the support already available.

Governments are seeking authorities to implement the following programs to
provide significant assistance to producers in the short term:

  1. AgriStability, with interim payments and targeted advances available;
  2. AgriInvest, including the federal $600 million Kickstart program; and
  3. an improved Advance Payments Program (APP) (more information below).

Overall, from late 2007 through 2008, nearly $1.5 billion in cash payments will flow to cattle and hog producers through existing programs. In addition, as a result of the changes being introduced by the federal government to the APP, up to $1 billion in additional loans will be available to the livestock sector, bringing the total loans available for the sector through the APP up to $2.3 billion. This enhancement will be particularly helpful to livestock producers who have had low income in recent years. Governments are now working with the producer organizations that deliver the program to ensure these loans are available early in the new year.

Ministers also supported the federal government's plan to defer the collection of interest on Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program overpayments until December 31, 2008. This is being done in response to industry requests and applies where the Government of Canada delivers the program, as well as in Alberta¸ Ontario, and Prince Edward Island. 

Ministers also committed that their governments and industry will continue to work together to examine the parameters of existing programs to ensure they continue to work for all stakeholders. In addition to these short term measures, governments are working with industry representatives to find ways of helping industry position itself to be competitive in the long term. These measures include enhancing market access efforts, reducing the regulatory burden, and examining means to reduce the cost of the feed ban implementation.

Ministers will be meeting early in 2008.

BACKGROUNDER

Business Risk Management Programs Available to Assist Livestock Producers in the Short-term

The new Business Risk Management suite has programs that are simple, responsive, predictable and bankable for producers across Canada's agriculture sector. In keeping with Canada's trade obligations they are designed as whole- farm programs that offer producers of various commodities support and assistance when they confront difficult circumstances. Producers in the livestock sector, whether hogs or cattle, can benefit from participating in these programs and are encouraged to contact their administrations to discuss their individual business situations in more detail.

AgriStability

Governments are seeking the authorities to implement AgriStability, which helps producers protect their margins from larger declines. AgriStability replaces the coverage previously available under the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program for margin declines of more than 15 per cent. Producers will receive program payments under AgriStability should their production margins fall below 85 per cent of their reference margins in a given year. 

Changes such as enhanced negative margin coverage and inventory valuation were requested by industry and brought about in the transition from CAIS to AgriStability. These changes are helping to ensure programs respond to the situation in the cattle and hog sectors.

How to apply

Producers who participated in CAIS for 2006 should have received an enrolment notice for AgriStability outlining the fee they must pay to participate. To participate, these producers must submit the fee before the December 31, 2007 deadline.

Producers who did not participate in CAIS 2006 can also apply to the new AgriStability program and must submit the fee before the December 31, 2007 deadline.

See the contact information below:

For more information on AgriStability, interim payments and target advances:

  1.  In British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon Territory, call 1-866-367-8506.
  2. In Alberta, call 1-877-744-7900.
  3. In Ontario, call 1-877-838-5144.
  4. In Quebec, call 1-800-749-3646.
  5. In Prince Edward Island, call 902-620-3091.

Interim Payments

Interim Payments provide producers with earlier access to a portion of their 2007 final payment. Interim Payments provide 50 per cent of a participant's estimated final payment, based on information they provide.

How to apply

The 2007 Interim Application is a simple two-page form, which can be requested by calling one of the numbers above. More information is also available at www.agr.gc.ca and an online calculator is available to help producers determine how much they may be eligible to receive.

Targeted Advance Payments

Manitoba, Nova Scotia¸ New Brunswick, and Alberta have targeted advances available to hog producers. Saskatchewan is also in the process of putting them in place. Through targeted advances, provincial governments proactively offer advances using benchmarks to determine the impact of a situation on an individual's farm. The advances provide producers with a portion of their estimated 2007 AgriStability benefit.

How to apply

The targeted advance is simple and quick. Producers in participating provinces are informed by letter of the estimated 2007 advance to which they are entitled. To receive a payment, they simply have to sign and return the letter. More information is also available by calling one of the numbers above.

The Advance Payments Program

The Advance Payments Program (APP) is a financial loan guarantee program that gives producers easier access to credit through cash advances which means improved cash flow throughout the year and better opportunities for marketing their agricultural products. The limit on cash advances is $400,000, with the first $100,000 being interest free. Producers have up to 18 months to repay the advances. In response to the need for more credit under the APP, changes will be implemented in early 2008 to add negative margin coverage under AgriStability as security for the APP. This will make additional loans available to producers - particularly those who have experienced back to back losses over the past few years. 

How to apply

Cash advances are issued by producer organizations on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. A list of these organizations is available at www.agr.gc.ca/app or by calling 1-888-346-2511.

AgriInvest

Governments are seeking authorities to implement AgriInvest, which replaces the coverage previously available under CAIS for margin declines of 15 per cent or less.

Each year, producers who make a deposit into an AgriInvest account will receive matching contributions from federal and provincial governments. Producers will have the flexibility to use the funds to cover small margin declines, for risk mitigation or other investments.

More details on how AgriInvest will be delivered will be available once authorities are in place.

Kickstart

To assist producers in the transition to the new suite of business risk management programs, the Government of Canada has announced a $600 million investment to kickstart the AgriInvest accounts.

Once AgriInvest authorities are in place, producers will receive a letter informing them of the amount of their Kickstart benefit. In all provinces and territories except Quebec, the $600 million is being delivered by the federal government.

To be eligible, producers must have farmed in 2007 and must commit to participating in AgriInvest for the 2007 program year. Producers do not have to make a deposit to their AgriInvest accounts to withdraw their Kickstart funds. 

Further details on Kickstart will be available once AgriInvest authorities are in place.

Other Measures - Deferral of Interest on CAIS Overpayments

To help address the issues facing the livestock sector and in response to requests from industry, collection of interest on CAIS overpayments will continue to be deferred until December 31, 2008. This applies in provinces and territories where Canada delivers the program (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador).

Province Applauds U.S. Decision to End Last Livestock Border Barrier

Market opportunities expand for ranchers and processors
November 19, 2007 --
The Alberta government is pleased that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has eliminated the final border barrier on the import of older cattle, bison and their meat products nearly five years after the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in a Canadian herd.

“We supported our producers through the largest livestock disaster in their history, and we continue to support them today,” said Premier Ed Stelmach. “As the largest cattle-producing province in Canada, we’re hopeful these changes will mean more market opportunities south of the border for our ranchers and processors.”

Under the final rule, live cattle and bison as well as meat products from animals born on or after March 1, 1999 are now eligible for export. Previously only cattle and meat products from animals under 30 months were eligible.

The Premier commended Alberta ranchers and processors for their resiliency as the province worked hand-in-hand with industry as well as federal and provincial governments on the issue.

“It has been a long time coming, but our restored trade with the U.S. is recognition of the effectiveness of Canada’s BSE safeguards,” said George Groeneveld, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “The requirements to export live cattle to the U.S. emphasize the importance of age-verification and we are continuing to work closely with industry and producers to promote and encourage traceability initiatives.”

Under the final rule, cattle must be certified by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accredited veterinarian, a process that includes an animal health inspection, age verification and permanent identification requirements. The March 1, 1999 eligibility date for older animals is the date the U.S. recognizes as the effective date of Canada’s feed ban. More information on the final rule and shipping requirements is available from CFIA district offices or on the CFIA website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca

The U.S. border originally closed to all Canadian cattle and beef in May of 2003 with the discovery of BSE. In August of 2003 it opened to beef products from animals under 30 months of age and to live cattle under 30 months of age in March of 2005.

Continued support for the provinces livestock industry and agriculture sector is part of Premier Ed Stelmach’s plan to secure Alberta’s future by building communities, greening our growth and creating opportunity.

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Appeal of ruling upholding wheat board's barley monopoly to be heard Feb. 26

A spokesperson at the Canadian Wheat Board confirmed Tuesday that the hearing will take place in Winnipeg Feb. 26.

A judge ruled in July that the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government overstepped its authority with its plans to strip the wheat board of its monopoly on barley sales.

The court ruling said the government overstepped by trying to eliminate the board's monopoly by a simple cabinet order, instead of legislation that would have to be debated in the House of Commons and Senate.

The Harper government said in late August it would appeal that decision.

The Opposition Liberals and the NDP both support leaving the board's monopoly intact.

The issue has divided grain producers, some of whom say the board ensures higher prices, while others say they would get more cash selling their grain on the open market.

North Dakota Requiring Canadian Cattle Test for TB and Burcellosis

In advance of new U.S. rules allowing more Canadian cattle imports, the North Dakota State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) said it would require cattle and bison entering the state from Canada be tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis, as well as meeting other import requirements.

The board said all Canadian female cattle over 12 months of age must be vaccinated for brucellosis and all test-eligible cattle and bison (18 months of age and older) must test negative for brucellosis within 30 days before importation.

All animals 60 days of age and older require a negative test for tuberculosis within 60 days prior to entry. Nursing calves accompanying negative-tested dam are exempt.

All animals must also have a BOAH importation permit number and a certificate of veterinary inspection with an individual official identification prior to entering North Dakota. In addition, all animals must continue to have a CAN hot iron or freeze brand on the right hip.

The board's action relates to the federal government's Nov. 19 implementation of the rule to allow Canadian breeding cattle imports. When that rule takes effect, all Canadian cattle, born after March 1, 1999, can be imported into the U.S.

North Dakota State Veterinarian Susan Keller said these test requirements are similar to those required in the past when Canadian breeding cattle imports were allowed. 

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Biosecurity Information Sheet

Please find attached a biosecurity information sheet developed for producers who were asking "what the heck in biosecurity?"  CLICK HERE.

VBP auditors will have these on hand when producers ask, because a biosecurity protocol for on-farm auditors is required and we find that producers ask about practices at that time.  This in no way means that biosecurity practices are mandatory or required within the VBP program.    The sheet simply serves to educate when we were being asked.

The producer advisory board for the VBP program suggested we forward the info sheet to you, so you are aware it exists and also for optional printing in your provincial newsletters or magazines.  Feel free to use. 

Australian Cattlemen are Suffering from Same Big Packer/Retailer Monopoly and Checkoff Rip Off

Australian cattlemen are taking a bloodbath with the trade steer dropping over 20% in three months. Mainstream rural media is saying little or nothing as the effect of Government actions over the US Free Trade Agreement and inaction over our two supermarket " duopoly collusion" bites deeper.

We are constantly told that we are in a global market. Fine. Let someone step forward and explain the following?

  1.  We are down to 53% of the US cattleman's 274 cents /kg. live price.
  2. Australian consumers are paying prices greater than US consumers.
  3. We are still to fill 30% of the US quota with only a few weeks left.
  4. Brazilian prices are at record levels with Angus steers selling up to 240 cents/kg. Live. 

Reasons given by some
Losing some of the Japan/Korea market back to the US-despite our NLIS.  It detailed the amazing "side letter" to the US Free Trade Agreement, which Minister Vaile signed. In it, he pledged, through the OIE (World Authority on Animal Health), to help the US get back into a BSE free Korea and to Japan. This soon damaged our prices here and this intensified as Canadian beef began to flood back into the USA due to the USDA abandoning its role as guardian of US cattle health and caving into processor / political pressure.

We now have the results of the UK Government's trial and cost benefit analysis of the use of RFID tags in sheep. It strongly recommends against its adoption as it " will make the UK industry uncompetitive in the EU" -and not improves animal health trace-back.

Australia, the most disease free country in the world, is pricing itself out of the world market to please some bureaucrats, idiot ministers, their selected producer puppets and greedy tag / reader manufacturers. 

The "high dollar"
I have written for some 8 years about Australia's galloping external debt. We have now reached $542 billion-nearly $30,000 for every man, woman and child in Australia. The trade figures for the last five years have been abysmal-in the midst of a mineral export boom we have had big deficits for each of the past 65 months.

The only way to keep international investors sending money to Australia to keep us solvent is by raising our interest rate. With New Zealand we now have the highest interest rates in the OECD and are closing in on Argentina. A high interest rate means a high $Aus. Exporters are now in a catch 22 situation. As our debt increases, our interest rate must increase to attract lenders to carry our debt and our exporters become less competitive.

The drought
This is a fair explanation for a drop in the price of light store cattle where feedlots are finding the price of grain too high and feedlot occupancy has dropped 25%. However for finished cattle it is a real furphy-supermarkets are claiming that the drought is forcing the cost of their supplies UP -as they push finished beef prices DOWN.

Unfinished cattle with some frame are ideal for the US market, which we can't fill despite their cattlemen's prices being almost twice ours! Give us a break!

Share of the Australian domestic consumer dollar NOT going to producers.
The feeder steer is the first price benchmark in the industry chain. US consumers have a graded product available, they pay LESS than Australian consumers and their consumption is HIGHER. The US has a Packers and Stockyards Act with rules for sale yards and for price transparency-Australia has a "rip off" rat race. MLA altered their measure of promotional success some years ago when they moved from the domestic consumption figure to an in house figure on " money spent on red meat". How this figure is arrived at is anybody's guess but their claim that more money is spent on meat meals each year is valid. 

The problem is that the people paying for the promotion - the producers - are actually getting less for their product.  The retailers are getting a bigger share of the consumer dollar with the producers paying for that share three times: with cheaper cattle, with promotion dollars and then if they purchase as a consumer!

So-What lies ahead?

  1. The herd will not be rebuilt to 30 million. There may be small increases in the environmentally sensitive and widely indigenously held Gulf and Kimberleys.  However this will be more than offset by native vegetation laws reducing development in Queensland and by permanent depletion in the south as the traditionally richer, safer, areas go under forestry, houses and alternate lifestyle blocks-as is happening in Europe and the US. Cows don't survive on a ration of tiled roofs or pine trees! Australia reached its highest stocking rate in animals in 1977 and has been falling as humans have multiplied and replaced them ever since.
     
  2. Feedlots face a frightening future with the drought and possible ethanol subsidies keeping grain prices at prohibitive levels. This applies, even more severely, to our main competitors for the consumer dollar-pork and chicken. However, chicken has a production line that can pass on costs to the consumer better than the fragmented beef line. Imports may render Australian pork production a terminal industry.
     
  3. World cattle numbers must fall as humans increase. More Chinese can afford beef but their Government is subsidising and protecting their industry and they are actually exporting more beef than they import.
     
  4. The Australian dollar will be held at artificial levels with our very high interest rates necessary to attract capital to service our huge external debt.

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Ridiculous Happenings at the ITC Hearing

November 19, 2007 -- On November 15th Eric Nelson, chairman of R-CALF USA's Trade Committee testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) an agency of our federal government. The topic of discussion was our beef and cattle exports, a subject that certainly deserves attention.

Astoundingly, a representative of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) was also invited to testify. This was more than curious since our greatest export concerns involve Korea and Japan, not Canada. Even worse, the CCA representative not only was invited to testify but was given preferential treatment at the hearing. All other invitees were told to give ten minutes of testimony concerning their organization's positions on export matters and to provide written testimony to that effect. The CCA representative was given the opportunity to testify last and immediately dove into a rebuttal of testimony given by others and lambasted the US for its ill treatment of Canadian cattlemen in the manner in which we have treated imports from Canada. The ITC commissioners did not stop his off-topic rant.

The hearing also produced some other outrageous gems. Both the CCA and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) referred to the "North American beef herd" as if the despicable idea of a North American Union were already a reality. 

On the topic of allowing private BSE testing of beef by companies such as Creekstone Farms to improve our export tonnage, the organizations testifying (AMI, NMA, NCBA) claimed that "sound science" ought to rule, and that such BSE testing has no basis in sound science. On the other hand, when asked about providing hormone free beef for European customers, the same crowd said we should "give the customers what they want." 

We can't decide which is the most ridiculous, the preference the ITC gave to the CCA, the ITC's apparent drive to encourage trade at any cost, the concessions to the North American Union, or the hypocrisy of "sound science" versus "give the customer what he wants."

A Pittance of Time

On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store’s PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with the store’s leadership role in adopting the Legion’s “two minutes of silence” initiative. He felt that the store’s contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven o’clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the “two minutes of silence” to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry’s anger towards the father for trying to engage the store’s clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, “A Pittance of Time”.

A Pittance of Time
Written by Terry Kelly
Published by Jefter Publishing


They fought and some died for their homeland
They fought and some died now it’s our land
Look at his little child, there’s no fear in her eyes
Could he not show respect for other dads who have died?

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time
For the boys and the girls who went over
In peace may they rest, may we never forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time

God forgive me for wanting to strike him
Give me strength so as not to be like him
My heart pounds in my breast, fingers pressed to my lips
My throat wants to bawl out, my tongue barely resists

But two minutes I will bide
It’s a pittance of time
For the boys and the girls who went over
In peace may they rest, may we never forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time

Read the letters and poems of the heroes at home
They have casualties, battles, and fears of their own
There’s a price to be paid if you go, if you stay
Freedom is fought for and won in numerous ways

Take two minutes would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time
For the boys and the girls all over
May we never forget our young become vets
At the end of the line it’s a pittance of time

It takes courage to fight in your own war
It takes courage to fight someone else’s war
Our peacekeepers tell of their own living hell
They bring hope to foreign lands that the hatemongers can’t kill.

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time
For the boys and the girls who go over
In peacetime our best still don battle dress
And lay their lives on the line.
It’s a pittance of time

In Peace may they rest, lest we forget why they died.
Take a pittance of time

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Remembering Who's Done What

October 30, 2007 -- October 31 marks another anniversary for producers who that choice is needed in barley and in Western Canada.  We've had farmers who have gone to jail, and a young family who waited for their Dad to come home, because these men stood up for their beliefs.

There have been producers who have been running for "choice" during CWB elections who've changed their mind once they became a director.  (Rod Flaman was as strong a supporter of Farmers for Justice as anyone and ran under that banner, but since elected, Rod is a very strong supporter of maintaining the CWB just the way it is.)

How can a CWB director run in the federal election?  Can a director represent his district fairly?  Is this ethical?

If the CWB does not start to listen to the western producers when they vote with a ballot or vote with farm acres, there will not be many bushels of grain for anyone in the CWB to deal with.

Western Canadian farmers are very hard working, very strong in their beliefs, and most of all, very proud people.

And we remember what Western Canadian producers have done for all us.  We remember what our politicians and elected officials have done for us too.

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New Thinking on the Value of Wetlands to Producers

October 22, 2007 -- Knowledge of the value of wetlands and overcoming misperceptions surrounding them is key to producers receiving more production benefits from these areas, says a leader in the field of wetlands research.

"Wetlands are the kidneys of the land, purifying its fluids in much the same way kidneys do in the human body," says Lee Foote, an associate professor with the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "In the process, they play critical roles in a number of areas, including human health and food production."

However, Foote says wetlands have historically been thought of by many as detrimental to the landscape. "From a production perspective, they were considered wastelands which take valuable land out of production. But in a broader sense, there has been a fear surrounding wetlands based on mythology and misperception. We tend to fear what we don't understand."

A popular new pilot project has been designed to help dispel these myths by offering producers a sense of the direct, on-the-ground benefits of wetlands and other wildlife habitat areas. Natural Advantage, The On-Farm Wildlife and Biodiversity Planning Service is managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) with funding support provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Greencover Canada Program.

"Natural Advantage offers producers access to a team of trained specialists in the field of wildlife habitat assessment who help them identify, map and classify wildlife habitat on the property," says Foote. "But in a larger sense, it's a tool that can prompt farmers to stop and think about not just the production benefits of wetlands, but the overall quality of life wetlands can add."

Wetlands are the "nuts and bolts" of an ecosystem, says Foote. "In addition to their critical role in water quality and groundwater replenishment, they also slow down the flow of water across the surface. This allows more time for moisture to percolate into the soil and benefit plant life."

Wetlands also promote a diversity of life which often carries a strong appeal in terms of property value, he says. "Generally, when you look at pieces of land with high resale value versus those with low resale value, you quickly find that high diversity of plant and animal life is directly related to a property's appeal. People want to live where there is biodiversity."

The high diversity of life that drives so much of the appeal of wetlands has also historically driven a sense of uncertainty bordering on fear, he says. Popular culture has often played on these fears by making wetlands the setting for horror stories, with the ultimate suggestion being that they are places to be avoided or, worse, destroyed altogether.

However, there are signs the tide of public opinion over wetlands is turning, says Foote. Education, he says, continues to be the fundamental driver of this ongoing process. Also, as consumers become more and more demanding of the environmental standards under which the food they eat is grown, wetland health will play an expanded role in their buying decisions.

"I personally know half a dozen people who will go out and look at the farm their food comes from before they buy. Environmental stewardship plays a large role in these consumers' decision to buy," he says.

For the full story, "A new era of value for wetlands," visit the Meristem Land & Science Web site at www.meristem.com. Further information on the Natural Advantage program is available by contacting DUC wildlife biologists Brett Boukall at 403-348-5258 or Jolene Hillson at 780-439-5145.

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Alberta Continues Fight for Farmers' Rights

Province will also support barley group's court application against CWB case

October 2, 2007 -- The Government of Alberta is taking action to help secure marketing choice for the province's barley producers by applying for intervener status in an upcoming federal court appeal.

"Alberta's barley producers have told us that they want to be able to market their barley to anyone they choose, including the Canadian Wheat Board," said George Groeneveld, Minister of Alberta Agriculture and Food.  "Our government will remain in the fight until this settled."

Producers clearly want more competitive options to maximize their barley marketing opportunities.  "This issue is about a fundamental Canadian right - freedom of choice," Groeneveld added.

The Western Barley Growers Association will also apply for intervention.  The group will receive financial assistance from the Government of Alberta for legal costs - up to $50,000 upon receipt of their invoices.

"On behalf of the members of the Western Barley Growers Association (WBGA) and all barley producers that support choice marketing, I'd like to thank Minister Groeneveld and the Government of Alberta for this tremendous support," said Jeff Nielsen, President WBGA.

On July 31, the Federal Court ruled that the Canadian government could not remove barley and barley products from the single desk marketing authority of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) by regulatory amendments, but would have to go to parliament to do so.  Alberta Agriculture and Food has filed a motion with the Federal Court of Appeal to request intervener status in the federal government's appeal of the Federal Court's ruling.

The Government of Manitoba has filed motions to request intervener status in support of the CWB.

This action supports Premier Ed Stelmach's plan to build a stronger Alberta.  Other priorities for the government are to govern with integrity and transparency, manage growth pressures, improve Albertan's quality of life and promote safe and secure communities.

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New research project may create BSE-fighting crops

October 11, 2007 -- University of Alberta professors Dr. Michael James and Dr. Nat Kav have received a $130,000 High Impact grant from PrioNet Canada to continue their ground-breaking work in prion structural biology. Prion-related diseases are fatal, infectious diseases caused by a misfolded prion protein. Some examples include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease) or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. 

This Alberta-based project could have significant global food safety and health impacts. In collaboration with world-renowned prion biologist Dr. Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology, University Hospital in Zurich, Drs. James and Kav will have special access to a series of antibodies developed by Dr. Aguzzi, with which they will perform groundbreaking studies on the three- dimensional shape of the prion protein. Their research could also lead to the development of crops that contain antibodies to protect against prion-related diseases, such as BSE.

Through funding like PrioNet Canada's High Impact Fund and the Alberta Prion Research Institute's Proof-of-Principle grants, researchers like Drs. James and Kav, who were previously in other research areas are now dedicating time to instrumental prion research. "The knowledge generated from this new project will lead to a better understanding of the biology of prion diseases and may lead to the development of new technologies to prevent and/or treat these diseases," say Drs. James and Kav, Co-principal Investigators on the PrioNet- funded grant.

"PrioNet is truly delighted to support the work of Drs. James and Kav," remarks Dr. Neil Cashman, Scientific Director of PrioNet Canada. "We believe this project will shed light on the structure of the abnormally folded protein responsible for these diseases, which is one of the major scientific mysteries in the field."

The threat of prion diseases is better understood since the United Kingdom's BSE crisis in the 1990's and the impact from the discovery of a Canadian case of BSE in 2003; however, the unknowns are still vast. Projects like this could provide vital information regarding the structure of the prion protein, which could lead to discoveries in how the diseases are transmitted and prevented. 

About the Alberta Prion Research Institute:

The Alberta Prion Institute is a $35 million initiative that supports research into the prevention and management of prion-related diseases and solutions for the serious economic and social consequences associated with them.

About PrioNet Canada:

PrioNet Canada, established by the Networks of Centres of Excellence program, is an innovative, $35 million network that capitalizes on fundamental, applied, and social research to develop strategies to mitigate, and ultimately eradicate, prion diseases.

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Send 'em the bill!!

Did you lose money when barley prices plummeted after the Hansen ruling? Send the CWB the bill for your losses!

Government will decide this week future of Wheat Board challenge: Minister

August 27, 2007 -- Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the government will decide later this week whether to launch an appeal of a Federal Court ruling on the barley monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.

A judge ruled last month that the Tory cabinet overstepped its authority when it passed a new regulation allowing farmers to sell their barley independently, and said such a change would have to be made via a law passed by Parliament.

Speaking in Saskatoon today, Ritz says ramming changes to the board's mandate through Parliament is not an option, mainly because the Tories are in a minority government.

The Opposition Liberals and the NDP both support leaving the board's monopoly intact.

Ritz says he's spoken to government advisers and key players on the board about a possible legal challenge.

The issue has divided grain producers, some of whom say the board ensures higher prices, while others say they would get more cash selling their grain on the open market.

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Slaughterhouse Closing Blow to Canadian Cattle Industry

August 21, 2007 -- A slaughterhouse near Calgary that opened just over a year ago shut down last week, dealing another blow to the Canadian beef processing industry, according to the Canadian Beef Export Federation.

Ranchers' Beef shut its doors last week, putting 260 employees out of work at the plant, which had capacity to slaughter 800 animals a day.

The plant closure is another setback for Canadian cattle industry and will increase Canadian ranchers' dependence on the U.S. market, Canada Beef Export Federation President Ted Haney told Meatingplace.com.

"The closing of Ranchers' Beef is a sign of the times in Canada," Haney said, noting that a combination of increased operating costs, a tight labor market in Western Canada and restricted international access are all leaning on the Canadian beef-processing sector. He said Canadian beef processors are currently operating at about 60 percent of capacity, well short of the 80 percent needed to remain viable in the long term.

"We are now experiencing a reduction in beef processing capacity, a natural result of low utilization levels in the long term," he said, calling the Ranchers' Beef closing the latest example.

Canada produces about 4.5 million cattle per year, processing about 3.0 million domestically and exporting up to 1.5 million live cattle to the United States, Haney estimated. 

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Paying for the Wheat Board

August 21, 2007 -- Ever since a federal court judge ruled on July 31 that the federal government's bid to bypass Parliament and remove the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley sales was illegal, pundits have been quibbling over the legal merits of the eleventh hour judgment. But whether it constitutes just "one thumbs up" for the democratic process or "two" misses the point. For a country whose politicians can barely decide where dogs can walk off-leash, never mind tackle hugely distortive and outdated policies that hamstring our ability to compete in increasingly cut-throat global markets, it's a huge opportunity lost, for farmers and the future of Canadian agro-industry.

In a recent op-ed piece for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Ken Ritter, the chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board, argued that a recent rash of foreign takeovers in strategic resource and manufacturing sectors was damning evidence - - of the kind long foretold by the marketing monopoly -- that unless Canada circles the wagons, the very kernel of the country's sovereignty, grain, is at risk of being usurped by a motley crew of multinationals, conglomerates and private interests.

Mr. Ritter has no cause to worry when it comes to the country's agro-industry. Unless foreign raiders plan on replacing Prairie farmers with landless Chinese peasants, there's not much to take over. 

Despite the Prairies' image as breadbasket to the world, there are precious few Canadian companies making bread, or anything else for that matter, and none of a globally relevant size. The pasta companies and maltsers are already under foreign ownership while a small group of American multinationals -- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Monsanto -- retain a steely grip on the processing, handling, seed and fertilizer sectors. Except for a few small holdouts, including the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, (partially owned by ADM), and the Winnipeg-based Richardson family, Canada agro-industry has already been bought up by foreign companies.

How did this happen? Well, you can thank the Canadian Wheat Board.

In the Dirty '30s when farmers first began clamouring for government protection from unremitting market forces, the bogeymen were their fellow Canadians-- traders, merchants and industrialists who made fortunes trucking in "prairie gold." Their commerce and burgeoning dynasties helped turn Winnipeg into a gilded city, it's Grain Exchange, the continent's second largest after Chicago, luring entrepreneurs and adventurers from around the world. Some farmers, however, were convinced the wealth to be had trading in grain futures was being made at their expense and the government, bowing to pressure, created the Board.

Initially the board only provided price protection. During the Second World War it was given a monopoly to trade in wheat and over time various other grains were added and removed from the Board's jurisdiction. Bit-by-bit, private trading disappeared and with it, Winnipeg's fortunes. Onerous government regulation discouraged all but the most diehard entrepreneurs willing to twist and bend to the Board's monopoly diktats. By grinding down any private sector ambition and focusing exclusively on grain in commodity form, the Board left the door wide open to American companies, unhindered by such impediments in their home market, to waltz right in.

Today, the Manitoba government staunchly defends the Board, fearful of losing its Winnipeg-based head office and the 417 civil service jobs that sustain it. It's a sad commentary on the city's once glimmering future and what Canadians could have attained had they not been so opposed to the free market. Just a few hundred kilometres south is Minneapolis, a city similar to Winnipeg, which embraced the free market and is now home to Cargill, a leading global grain marketer and processor with US$75-billion in sales and 153,000 employees in 66 countries. 

Canadians can take consolation in the fact that they control the Wheat Board, even if it has fuelled more animosity and divisiveness within Canada than any foreign multinational operating here. And the Board has succeeded in protecting Canada's sovereignty, as Mr. Ritter claims, if that means Canadians are actually growing the wheat and barley, even if farmers plant less of it all the time. The fact that we don't possess the means to turn the grain into food we can eat, well, that seems to be beside the point.

Andrea Mandel-Campbell is author of Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molsons. 

Rolf Penner is a Manitoba farmer and the Agricultural Policy Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent think-tank based in Winnipeg.

www.fcpp.org 

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Mineral Development and the Assault on Private Property

August 20, 2007 -- The strength of the rule of law in any state can be most accurately and immediately gauged by observing the security of possession of those with few belongings.  Those who own a substantial amount of property are the ones who can afford to independently defend their right to ownership.  They are the least dependent party of sound legislation.  This truth is illustrated in the current situation between individual land owners, governments and gas and oil companies. The property rights of private landowners are being threatened by poorly thought out legislation, the division of land and mineral rights, and powerful government agencies acting of political incentive.

In the Prairie Provinces, the authority and responsibility to both regulate and promote the oil and gas industry rests with the same government agency. This invariably leads to a conflict of interest when the Crown chooses to favour the industry over regulating its adverse effects (1). For example, in areas where the oil and gas industry is prominent, landowners have complained of contaminated water sources and toxic gas emissions (2). The Government functions best in the role of enforcing legislation to minimize externalities of the industry not reflected in market forces. When they are expected to promote, create, administer, and regulate business, the property rights of landowners are compromised and no one is well served.

When an oil and gas company decides to purchase farmland, the legislation in place makes it very difficult for landowners to ensure they are adequately reimbursed. Because the minerals below the surface of the land usually belong to the crown, if the landowner refuses the offer presented by the oil and gas company, the company can get a court order to secure the right to enter onto the property to extract the minerals.

In Alberta, the Land Agent Licensing Act makes it very difficult for farmers to find land agents who are not employed by the very oil and gas companies who are threatening expropriation. Take Ray Strom, for example. He is the Alberta man who was found guilty of accepting fees for acting on the landowners behalf without a license, because he attempted to negotiate on behalf of farmers in contention with the oil and gas companies (3). 

The Licensing Act not only endangers the property rights of landowners, but also restricts the information and council they have access to, leaving them defenseless at the hands of the oil and gas companies.  Without the protection of a just rule of law, political clout rules without check at the expense of the individual.

In the case of the Licensing Act, property rights are not the only liberty at stake. It also infringes on the landowner’s right to fair council and association. Whenever property rights are sacrificed, personal liberties are also harmed. Property rights are often portrayed as adverse to human rights, as if the property itself were the object of discrimination, and not the human that owns it. In reality, individual property rights have proven essential to the preservation and betterment of both property and the individual. Government has a poor track record of protecting private property, opting instead to enlarge its dominion or tax base through expropriation. It is our duty as citizens to remain vigilant to protect our property.

The government needs to start focusing on protecting the property rights of citizens along with facilitating the oil and gas industry. The best way to do this is by giving landowners the freedom to access appropriate council and allowing competitive offers by the oil and gas industry to become the incentive to sell, rather than the threat of expropriation.

(1) Stefania A. Fortugno, When the Oil Patch Comes to Your Saskatchewan Backyard: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Your Rights (Saskatchewan Environmental Society, 2004) p. 70

(2) Sheila Pratt Rural Landowners Victimized by lack of provincial action: Framework sorely needed to protect special areas, say farmers and ranchers. (Edmonton Journal, March 3, 2006)

(3) Andrew Nikiforuk Property rights: Holey land (Canadian Business magazine, May 21, 2007).

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New Agriculture Minister Appointed

August 20, 2007 -- Gerry Ritz received an early birthday present. This week the Prime Minister  appointed him as minister of agriculture and minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board. The federal cabinet shuffle saw the previous agriculture minister, Chuck Strahl, become the minister of Indian affairs and northern development.

Ritz was born on Aug. 19, 1951 in Delisle, Sask., just west of Saskatoon. The family moved to the Rosetown area of the province in 1967 and that is where Ritz completed his high school. 

Out of high school, he worked in sales for a few years returning to the family farm in the mid 70s. He concentrated mainly on grain production, but also diversified into raising ostrich in the 90s. He farmed until his election to the House of Commons in 1997 and then contracted out his farming operation.

Ritz is the MP for the Battlefords-Lloydminster constituency in the northwestern corner of the province's grain belt. He was re-elected in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

In opposition, Ritz served as agriculture critic. While in government, he has been chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture.

Gerry and his wife Judy have two grown children.

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Thank You, Mr. Strahl

August 17, 2007 -- We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Chuck Strahl for his service as federal Agriculture Minister.  We wish him well in his new portfolio as Indian Affairs Minister.

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It's Not Business As Usual

August 17, 2007 -- "Barley Freedom Day" was just what our rural communities needed.  We needed it not just to feel good, but to make our survival possible.  Farmers are leaving the land, and the reason should be obvious.  The income is just not there.

CWB directors and staff have known for over a decade what farmers want.  Surveys done (paid for by the farmer's pool account funds) that mirror what the federal barley vote showed: farmers want freedom.

But the Calgary judgment shows us that what the majority of farmers want, vote or need, does not matter in a democracy.  The Friends of the CWB, and the CWB itself, want to tell us what we can and cannot do.  The barley vote was a vote for CHOICE.  It was not about forcing anyone to use or not use the CWB.

The CWB will not listen to those who have been asking for change and choice, and now we are screaming for it.  The volume of acres have gone down every year, and the CWB still insists they know what is best for us.  So now, after the surveys, after the vote - is there nothing we can do?

There is something we can do.  Do not have any contact with the CWB.  Do not fill out a permit book.  Do not answer a survey.  Keep this up as long as feasible for your operation.  Perhaps the CWB will then understand that it is not "business as usual" anymore.

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Judges Decision Hardly Democracy

August 8, 2007 -- Fuzzy thinking and heated politics surround the latest near-death experience of the Canadian What Board.

In a Federal Court decision last week, Madame Justice Delores Hansen ruled the government could not exclude barley from CWB control by changing the regulations though it could (and did) include it under board control by regulatory change.  Exclusion, she said, required a legislative amendment to the Wheat Board Act.  At once, August 1 changed from "barley freedom day" into another day of monopoly domination.

Opponents of removing barley from the board monopoly are well known.  First in line are the bureaucrats employed by the CWB whose self-interest is evident.  They were joined by the NDP governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the Nervous Nellies of the Farmers' Union who have long been afraid to compete.  Filled with nameless fears, they did what such people often do -- projected their own anxieties onto those with whom they disagreed and declared that the Harper government was following an "ideological agenda."

In fact, it was not ideology that inspired the government to liberate the farmers of New Dayton or Kindersley from the bureaucratic serfdom imposed by the CWB, but the sound ethical and political belief that they were grown-up citizens, just like the farmers of Ontario.  The CWB makes as much sense today as a Canadian Lawyers Board (CLB) staffed by plumbers or piano teachers that would set the maximum rates lawyers could charge and how many hours a day they could work.  The CLB would, of course, apply only to the "designated area" east of the Ottawa River.

The effects of the decision were entirely predictable.  Sellers had expected to dispose of around a half-million tonnes of barley on the international market directly, without having their grain handled by the CWB.

Now foreign farmers will supply it, which means a glut on the domestic market and explains why cash prices dropped 70 cents a bushel and futures fell $7.50 a tonne.  One farmer reported he lost $40,000 on August 1.

Another said he would send the board a sample of his fine malting barley along with the shipping receipt of its sale to a feedlot "where it'll be turned into manure."

Responses of the CWB supporters were also predictable.  Board chairman Ken Ritter said the price depression was just "psychological."  No, Ken.  It's supply and demand, the way free markets, not coercive monopolies, work.

One of the silliest comments was by Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosanne Wowchuk, who declared "democracy has prevailed."  Not to be outdone, a Toronto academic, Grace Skogstad, said that the government effort to free barley-growers "shows a callous disregard for democracy."

What these self-styled defenders of democracy seem to have forgotten is that in a referendum last spring, barley producers voted almost two to one to market their own grain outside CWB tutelage.

In order to reach her decision, Hansen had first to accord great weight to the provision of the Wheat Board Act allowing inclusion of barley by regulation.

Because the Act was silent about excluding barley by regulation, she said this meant parliament must have intended that barley could be excluded only by legislation.  Second, she considered debates recorded in Hansard, which might give clues to the intentions of Parliament, to be unhelpful.  Finally, she gave little weight to the commonsensical provisions of the Interpretation Act that stated that a power to make regulations includes the power to repeal them.

It is probably fair to say that another judge might have come to the exact opposite conclusion and decided that included or excluding barley from CWB control could be done equally by regulation.

There is another curious aspect to the decision.  Hanson also could have given the government time to amend the Wheat Board Act to her satisfaction, as other judges have done with similarly ambiguous and politically controversial legislation.  But this would have meant that, for a while, Canadian farmers could take part in an international barley market.  When that happened in 1993, barley sales surged.  It would have happened again, which might have eventually led to a free market in wheat.

All is not lost.  The government can amend the Wheat Board Act and make it a confidence measure.  At one stroke, it would put the Wheat Board out of its misery, remove the ability of the board to impose misery on others, and show the kind of decisive leadership that is invariable followed by increased popular support.  That is what genuine democracy entails.

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Cabinet shuffle at a glance

The changes:

  New Old
Cabinet
Peter MacKay
Defence Foreign Affairs
Cabinet
Maxime Bernier
Foreign Affairs Industry
Cabinet
Jim Prentice
Industry Indian affairs and northern development and federal interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians
Cabinet
Josee Verner
Heritage Minister responsible for CIDA and la francophonie
Cabinet
Bev Oda
International Cooperation Canadian heritage and status of women
Cabinet
Gerry Ritz
Agriculture and Canadian Wheat Board Secretary of state for small business and tourism.
Cabinet
Chuck Strahl
Indian Affairs Agriculture and minister for the Canadian Wheat Board
Cabinet
Diane Ablonczy
Secretary of State for Tourism and Small Business  
Cabinet
Gordon O'Connor
National Revenue Defence

New cabinet after the shuffle, changes in bold:

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
  • Robert Nicholson, justice; attorney general.
  • David Emerson, international trade; minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics.
  • Jean-Pierre Blackburn, labour; minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec.
  • Greg Thompson, veterans affairs.
  • Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate; secretary of state for seniors.
  • Monte Solberg, human resources and social development.
  • Gerry Ritz, agriculture and agri-food; minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.
  • Gary Lunn, natural resources.
  • Maxime Bernier, foreign affairs.
  • Loyola Hearn, fisheries and oceans.
  • Stockwell Day, public safety.
  • Gordon O'Connor, national revenue.
  • Vic Toews, Treasury Board.
  • Rona Ambrose, intergovernmental affairs; western economic diversification; president of the Privy Council.
  • Diane Finley, citizenship and immigration.
  • Peter MacKay, national defence; minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
  • Josée Verner, Canadian heritage and status of women; official languages.
  • Chuck Strahl, Indian affairs and northern development; federal interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians.
  • John Baird, environment.
  • Jim Prentice, industry.
  • Lawrence Cannon, transport, infrastructure and communities.
  • Tony Clement, health; minister for the federal economic development initiative for northern Ontario.
  • Jim Flaherty, finance.
  • Bev Oda, international co-operation.
  • Michael Fortier, public works and government services.
  • Peter Van Loan, government House leader; democratic reform.
  • Jay Hill, government whip and secretary of state.
  • Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity.
  • Diane Ablonczy, secretary of state for small business and tourism.
  • Helena Guergis, secretary of state for foreign affairs and international trade; secretary of state for sport.
  • Christian Paradis, secretary of state for agriculture.

New faces

Diane Ablonczy
Secretary of state for small business and tourism
Calgary-Nose Hill, Alta.

The long-serving politician replaced retiring Saskatchewan MP Carol Skelton as the seventh woman at the cabinet table. A former Reform Party stalwart and long-time Harper loyalist, she was overlooked in previous Harper cabinets, despite strong performances during the party's time in Opposition. Ablonczy was appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance in 2006 and served on the public accounts committee investigating the federal sponsorship scandal.

Prior to her 1993 election, Ablonczy taught elementary and junior high school, managed a grain farm operation and had her own law practice.

Gerry Ritz
Minister of agriculture
Battlefords-Lloydminster, Alta.

 

A Saskatchewan grain farmer and strong advocate of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, Ritz is the new agriculture minister, taking over from Chuck Strahl. He was promoted from his previous post as secretary of state for small business and tourism.

In July 2007, a federal court judge blocked the government's cabinet order to strip the Wheat Board of its monopoly on western barley sales. Federal Court Judge Dolores Hansen said the government overstepped its authority. Ritz will likely be crafting the government's response to that ruling.

Out of cabinet

Carol Skelton is the only minister to be removed from the cabinet. O'Connor takes over her role as minister of national revenue. Skelton had already announced she would not seek re-election.

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Judge Madam Delores Derails Dual Market

A junior Federal Court ruling takes the Wheat Board monopoly issue back to square one

Talk about deja vu all over again. On Aug. 1 1993 then-agriminister Charlie Mayer tried to create a continental barley market by removing the Canadian Wheat Board's control over barley exports to the U.S., by changing the regulations which authorized the Board to exercise this part of its monopoly by cabinet order-in-council. There was a technical glitch in the way the regulation change was worded, which was enough for the prairie wheat pools to challenge the decision in court. The continental market lasted from Aug. 1 to Sept. 10 before a federal judge in Winnipeg ruled that the change had not been properly made. The government appealed, and meanwhile could have corrected the procedural flaw with a simple amendment. However a federal election intervened which returned the Liberal Chretieniste regime, which sided with the left wing of grain marketing opinion and dropped the appeal. The barley monopoly survived to the present day.

It will continue to survive for a while longer because last week Federal Court judge Delores Hansen accepted the arguments of the Canadian Wheat Board's hot-shot Toronto lawyers to the effect that the barley monopoly cannot be removed by regulation. The decision came at 3:00 PM Calgary time on July 31, a few hours before the start of the 2007-08 crop year, when western barley growers were to finally get the right to sell to their best advantage.

The decision could have gone either way because of sloppy wording of the Wheat Board Act and contradictions created by the 1998 Goodale amendments. The judge decided that while barley can be (as it was in 1943) placed under the monopoly by regulation, legislation is needed to remove it. She also concluded that Parliament, just by passing the amendments, intended that literally any change in the Board's powers required both a vote of farmers and changes to legislation, exactly the position of the Board and its supporters.

The decision prevented the regulation from taking effect. The monopoly powers of the Board remain intact and for the time being the same rules applied on Aug. 1 as on July 31.

This is the beginning of the story, not the end. The Harper government can either forget the whole thing or go to the next level. It is in no position to forget the whole thing. Over time the government, not the Board or its fanatic directors, will prevail. The directors may have won a battle but they have emphatically lost the war, and not just over the monopoly marketing of barley. 

Whatever happens next will take time. The government could appeal the decision, but the outcome could be the same because of the lack of clarity and the internal conflicts in the Wheat Board law. If a government appeal succeeded, the Board's directors would spend whatever is needed from the pool accounts to take this to the Supreme Court. A complete appeal process would take at least three years.

The government could try to order the Board to issue export licenses at no charge to anyone who requests them as it does for everyone except western farmers. It is not certain that the Board would comply, but even if it did only export sales would be freed.

That leaves legislation. Parliament is in recess until after Labor Day, but a comprehensive Wheat Board reform bill could be waiting when the members return. The bill would have to repeal the present procedure, including the farmer vote, changing the Board into a voluntary agency. No court would support a situation in which Parliament cannot amend legislation passed by an earlier parliament.

The Wheat Board was well prepared, probably with a suite of news releases that would have responded to whatever the court decided. The gloating, condescending release that was issued within minutes of the Calgary ruling said that the Board will "accelerate the evolution begun several years ago to transform the corporation into an entity that effectively responds to farmers' business needs", an admission if ever there was one that it previously has not been such an entity.

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Farmers Should Send Wheat Board The Bill For Losses

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) must compensate barley producers who suffered from recent sharp drops in barley prices, say representatives of Market Choice Alliance (MCA), a grassroots organization of farmers who support removing barley from the CWB monopoly.

MCA today launched a campaign to encourage farmers to send the CWB an invoice for losses from barley price drops, which were precipitated by the CWB’s moves to use the courts to block producers’ wishes.

“The Canadian Wheat Board and its board of directors have not carried out their fiduciary duty to my business. By using political obstruction and legal roadblocks, the actions of the CWB have caused significant and measurable loss from my business. The level of financial harm is measurable and verifiable through publicly available information sources,” stated MCA spokesman Charles Anderson in an open letter to CWB chair Ken Ritter.

Following the producer plebiscite calling for barley to be removed from the CWB, barley prices had risen consistently as buyers prepared to compete for the business of individual farmers. In the aftermath of Judge Hansen’s ruling striking down the results of the plebiscite, barley prices have plummeted by as much as $32.50 per tonne.

Anderson noted that, when barley prices were rising, the CWB and maltsters sought to have the federal government compensate them for their losses on sales contracts.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the CWB thinks the federal government was legally responsible for rising barley prices, then by the same logic the CWB must be legally responsible for falling prices,” Anderson said.

MCA has posted a form letter and standard invoice on its website at www.barleyvote.ca . The forms allow farmers to document their losses and demand payment from the CWB.

“The CWB seems to think there are no consequences for the games it plays that hurt farmers. We need to act together to show them that there are consequences and they must be accountable for them,” Anderson said.

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How would you vote today?

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Benefit for Manitoba Farmers

For those of you unaware the July 3 weekend saw a tornado hit Norm & Clayton Desrosiers farm near Cartright, MB, leaving not one building standing, including the house.

Norman, his wife, daughter-in-law and 2 year old grandson made it to safety in the basement when the worst of the storm hit.  Not 30 seconds into the basement and the house above was gone.

The large treed yard is ruined, the big equipment and vehicles are all damaged.  One set of grain trailers ended up on top of the other, flung into a nearby field.

We all thank God no one was hurt (though they did lose the family dog).  How does a family take this kind of hit?

There is a benefit for the Desrosiers on August 3 at the Baldur Community Centre starting at 9 pm.  If you would like to help with a donation, there is a fund set up at the Baldur, MB Credit Union at Baldur, MB.

Volunteers have started coming to start building a new house on the old basement where Norman is living.  There has been great support from the farming community and we urge everyone to lend a hand where possible.

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Emotions run high for farmers over fate of wheat board

August 1, 2007 -- While staid procedural arguments about the future of barley sales under the Canadian Wheat Board were presented in Calgary yesterday, grain farmers outside the Federal Court erupted in an emotional debate about their own futures with or without the long-standing monopoly, which Ottawa is keen to dismantle.

Art Mainil, a pensioner who farms the same property that his grandfather homesteaded near Estevan, Sask., said the single-desk system of handling grain sales for farmers served a purpose at one time. But now, he said, there are opportunities for farmers to market their own products better than the wheat board.

"Competition is the healthiest thing there is. There's nothing that beats competition," said Mr. Mainil, who travelled from the southeast corner of Saskatchewan to take in the start of the three-day-long hearing.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a minority government in 2006, his Conservatives have made it clear they want fundamental changes to the structure of the board to give western farmers choice in marketing their own wheat and barley. Right now, Prairie farmers must go through the board to sell their products, while farmers in such places as Ontario and Quebec do not.

But if the court approves changes ordered by Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, western producers will be able to market barley on their own by Aug. 1 - a day some producers are calling "barley freedom day."

The wheat board, which is hoping the court will declare the move unlawful and not within Ottawa's jurisdiction, argued that the government ignored sections of the Wheat Board Act that require legislative change and a vote in Parliament to implement its policy.

"Mr. Strahl has plumb wrong got it wrong," wheat board lawyer John McDougall told the court. "The board is not responsible to reflect government policy."

The monopoly, he said, is designed to handle the orderly marketing of grain, and amendments to the governing act in 1998 gave control of the board to farmers.

Ottawa argues that no vote is required by the House of Commons since the change to barley sales is merely regulatory.

Ken Larsen, a 52-year-old grain farmer drove down from Benalto in central Alberta to throw his support behind the monopoly, which is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. The board offers international buyers "consistency and reliability" of a quality product, which is the kind of clout that individual farmers don't have internationally, he said.

He worries that if membership in the board is made voluntary, a dual system where farmers could sell to either the wheat board or another buyer would crush producers.

Last fall, Mr. Strahl banned the wheat board from lobbying for its continued existence. Then, during elections for the producer-elected board, his ministry removed thousands of voters from lists. By December, Mr. Strahl fired the board's chief executive officer who publicly opposed the government's plan to dismantle the organization. In March, some farmers criticized as unfair a plebiscite on whether barley should remain under the auspices of the board.

No timetable has been set on removing wheat from the grip of the board, but that is expected to be a much more emotional issue that may be decided by Canadian voters.

"If Harper gets us a majority then this [the wheat board] will be done," Brad McKay, a 39-year-old grain farmer from Vulcan, Alta., shouted to a wheat board supporter outside the court.

"Enjoy the next couple of years."

Mr. McKay said western Canadian farmers deserve the sort of choice in marketing barley and wheat that he has with canola and peas.

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Court slams Ottawa over attempt to break up Wheat Board monopoly

August 1, 2007 -- A court has issued a strong rebuke to the federal government, which is aiming to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on grain sales, on the eve of what was supposed to be the Conservative's first step in opening the market on barley.

Federal Court Judge Dolores Hansen, who last night rushed out her decision on the future of barley sales, ruled that Ottawa overstepped its power when it pledged to remove the crop sales from the single-desk marketing system as of today.

In her 20-page ruling, Judge Hansen concluded that Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl was wrong to simply introduce a regulation that would allow Western Canadian farmers to market barley to any customer they choose.

Instead, she found, the federal act that governs the wheat board requires a vote in Parliament.

The board successfully argued that farmers, not the government, were given control of the board when Parliament amended the Canadian Wheat Board Act in 1998.

Board chairman Ken Ritter was pleased with the decision, but said the organization is not going to carry on as if it is "business as usual."

"We will work hard to find new ways to create marketing choices for farmers without stripping away the marketing power of their single desk," he said in a statement.

Indeed, this may just be a temporary victory for the board, which is the largest marketer of wheat and barley in the world, but it is on the federal government's hit list for change.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long promised to allow Western farmers more choice in marketing. Some farmers have become increasingly agitated by being forced to market their wheat and barley through the board when their counterparts in Eastern Canada have the luxury of finding their own buyers.

Some producers were calling August 1 "barley freedom day" in anticipation of the opportunity to handle their own sales.

Emotions ran high outside the court proceedings in Calgary last week as farmers both for and against the continued existence of a single-desk system voiced their views.  Some farmers believe they could get higher prices for their crops if they found their own customers. Others are worried that the creation of a dual-marketing system would doom all farmers because customers may not believe that they are receiving the same quality of product.

Mr. Strahl said he is "disappointed" and "surprised" by the decision.

"Barley freedom day isn't going to happen" as scheduled, he said.

Mr. Strahl said he will ask the government's legal team to look at the ruling and decide "as quickly as possible" what steps to take, including whether to file an appeal or put the issue to a vote in Parliament.

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Fights flare over subsidies in Farm Bill

July 3, 2007 -- The Bush administration has provided Congress with its ideas for national farm policy over the next five years.

So far, lawmakers have basically ignored the president and his policymakers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And last week, a U.S. House agriculture subcommittee left wheat growers groaning and the USDA disappointed.

"We think our proposals are forward-thinking," said Mark Rey, USDA undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

A focus of the Bush proposals is to make U.S. farm law and agricultural subsidies immune to challenge by other members of the World Trade Organization.

"We don't want to get taken down one (commodity) at a time, like cotton," Rey said, referring to Brazil's successful WTO challenge to U.S. subsidy payments to cotton farmers.

Congress has generally disregarded foreign criticism of U.S. farm subsidies, arguing that unless or until there is a world agreement on agriculture trade, U.S. farmers would not be unilaterally weaned off their subsidies.

Efforts to negotiate changes in world trade treaties on agriculture products have failed for more than 20 years. The so-called Doha round of negotiations fizzled for the fourth time last week. There has been no progress on a multilateral ag trade pact since the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999. 

The House Agriculture subcommittee that deals with commodities has renewed the language of the 2002 Farm Bill, which wheat growers in Montana and Wyoming argue puts them at a disadvantage compared with other grains, including corn, soybeans and rice.

"We need equity with the other grains," said Darin Arganbright, a producer at Carter. That is why wheat growers are asking for a higher direct payment of $1.19 a bushel versus 52 cents under the 2002 bill.

"That is bankable income," Arganbright said, and it helps cover the cost of production.

Arganbright will present the Montana Grain Growers Association's viewpoint at a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee field hearing in Great Falls on Monday.

"Wheat growers remain convinced that farm programs need to be rebalanced," said John Thaemert, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. 

Rey said the administration's proposals fall into five broad categories and would cost approximately $10 billion less than the cost of the 2002 Farm Bill over the past five years (excluding ad-hoc disaster aid).

"We want to bring greater equity to a broader range of producers," Rey said. Also in the outline are programs that are resistant to WTO challenge, an increase in spending on more conservation programs, a greater emphasis on renewable energy fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, incentive assistance to individuals who want to enter agriculture, he said.

Rey said the subcommittee's action means that members are still targeting commodity prices rather than on production. 

"Farmers told us, 'You give us money when we don't need it and don't give us money when we do,' " Rey said, referring to the meetings around the country USDA hosted last year in anticipation of the 2007 Farm Bill. 

"They want us to help them when they need it, when they have a crop loss," he said. "If we base farm programs on production versus price we also remove the WTO vulnerability."

Wheat farmers don't buy that argument.

"We hope that Congress will remember that even if a Doha round WTO agreement is not achieved, it is important that we use the most WTO-compliant mechanism to provide farm support," Thaemert said. "That mechanism is the direct payment.

"(It) is the only mechanism ... that works when there are crop shortages due to drought and other weather disasters."

Two other proposals to limit the amount of money a farmer gets from the government are being proposed and neither is popular, although it appears that Congress is ready to cap the amount an individual farmer can collect in a single year.

Again, these proposals will get the money where it is needed, said Rey, rather than to farmers who have graduated from the need.

The Bush administration would limit farm payments to those farmers who have a gross adjusted income of less than $200,000.

Those individuals in the United States who have an adjusted income greater than $200,000 are in the top 2 percent of the U.S. population, Rey said.

He emphasized that the proposal was for gross adjusted income, not gross income.

The adjusted income is after farm expenses and depreciation and other deductions allowed, Rey said. He referred to Schedule F on the income tax form.

The second limit would be that payments to individual farmers for farm programs would be capped at $340,000 a year. 

Rey said that would save $5 billion a year that would be targeted to specialty crops, fruits, nuts and vegetables that are not now in the Farm Bill.

He said the USDA wants to reduce WTO vulnerability, get farm payments to where they are needed and invest in nutritional programs.

Rey argued that trade disputes with the WTO have to be addressed.

"The status quo is not a sustainable position," he said. "We can be taken down one (commodity) at a time or not play by the WTO rules.

"That would cut us off from export markets."

The United States "must break down barriers in foreign markets because agricultural consumption in this country is increasing by half the rate of increased production," he said.

Some programs under the 2002 Farm Bill expire Sept. 30, and Congress intends to complete its work this year, but some senators and representatives are calling for an extension of current law if the 2007 version is not completed. That happened in 1995.

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G-10 food importers call for wider farm trade WTO talks

July 2, 2007 -- The World Trade Organization's ( WTO) Group of Ten food importing countries, including Japan, called late Monday for wider participation in the stalled Doha Round of trade liberalization talks on agricultural issues.

The G-10 countries want the (WTO) to open up current negotiations to a wider range of member countries and oppose moves by the Group of Four (G-4) to draft an outline agreement by themselves.

Negotiations between the G-4 -- the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India -- broke up last month on disagreement over agriculture and market access, issues that have dogged the negotiations for years.

A communiqué issued Monday after conversations between Japanese Agriculture Minister Norihiko Akagi and his G-10 counterparts, said the multilateral process in the WTO 'needs to be intensified to allow for a successful conclusion' of the Doha Round.

It said the talks should give consideration to farm products that importing countries want to protect with high tariffs, such as Japan's rice. 

'All sensitivities have to be taken into account, as well as various levels of development, in line with the development dimension of the Doha Development Agenda,' it said.

The G-10 members hope their position will be reflected in a draft accord on farm trade which is expected to be presented in mid-July by the chairman overseeing the agriculture negotiations.

Following the release of the communiqué, Akagi told reporters that he plans to visit Europe to explain the G-10 stance to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and other key officials.

Japan strongly opposes the capping of tariffs on farm imports, saying it could ruin its agriculture sector.

Japan imposes tariffs of 778 percent on rice, arguing that the crop requires special protection as it is crucial for the livelihood of small communities in rural areas and for flood control.

The G-10 currently comprises Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, Switzerland and Taiwan. Bulgaria withdraw from the G-1O before it joined the European Union. 

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CAIS Gone -- 4 New Program Names

July 1, 2007 -- Agriculture Ministers have agreed to start 4 modified programs - aimed at helping producers through tough times.

Federal Minister Chuck Strahl says the 4 of them will replace CAIS.

One will be called AgriInvest -- and will look similar to the NISA accounts.

Strahl says it will be meant to help a producer through small changes in income -- and will require little paper work while being very bankable.

He says they will work quickly to get that money out the door -- with final details being ratified at the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agriculture Ministers September meeting.

As for the other 3...

AgriStability -- will be the margin based program.

AgriInsurance -- covering current production insurance, while expanding to include things like horticulture and livestock.

AgriRecovery -- will cover diasters the other programs don't.

But during their annual meeting last week -- agriculture ministers also covered a number of subjects including future agriculture policy.

One component that Ontario's Agriculture Minister wanted to see was flexible dollars -- so that province could use them in programs like Risk Management Program.

Leona Dombrowsky says progress was made with new wording in the next Agriculture Policy Framework dealing with that flexibility.

However she says more needs to be done to ensure Ontario gets the best deal.

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Tax Freedom Day Arrives Earlier than Last Year

June 20, 2007 -- Canadians start working for themselves today after having paid off their government tax bills, according to the Fraser Institute's annual Tax Freedom Day calculations.

This year the day arrives four days earlier than last year, partly because of the federal government's one-cent reduction of the Goods and Services Tax that took effect halfway through 2006.

"If you look at the average Canadian family's total tax bill, each and every dollar they earn before June 20 would be required to pay the taxes owing to all levels of government," the Fraser Institute's Niels Veldhuis, director of the centre for tax studies, said in a release.

"It takes until June 20 before they begin earning money for themselves."

The conservative think tank has been calculating Tax Freedom Day since 1977.

The earlier date can also be attributed to several provincial governments reducing their taxes this year, Veldhuis said.

The latest Tax Freedom Day was in 2000, when it fell on June 25. Tax Freedom Day moved forward to June 17 in 2001 before steadily retreating to June 24 in 2005 and 2006.

"Even with the recent improvements, Tax Freedom Day still falls almost two months later than in 1961, the earliest year for which we have calculations," Veldhuis said.

The taxes used for calculation include income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, profit taxes, license fees, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and health, social security and employment taxes. Numerous other levies are also analyzed.

The institute's annual report has come under fire by at least one group, which calls it a misleading gimmick that underestimates Canadians' incomes and overstates their taxes.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has said the institute's method of calculating the date each year is based on average family income, rather than median income.

The Fraser Institute says the average Canadian family (with two or more individuals) in 2007 will earn $83,775 and pay a total of $38,992 in taxes, for a total tax bill amounting to 46.5 per cent of its income.

Tax Freedom Day varies from province to province, depending on the taxation levels of each provincial government. Alberta enjoys the earliest Tax Freedom Day on June 1, followed by New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (June 14), British Columbia and Manitoba (June 16), Ontario and Nova Scotia (June 19), and Saskatchewan (June 22).

Quebec has the second-latest Tax Freedom Day, on June 26, while Newfoundland and Labrador wait the longest, until July 1.

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Marketing Choice for Barley to Start August 1, 2007

June 11, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced that the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations have been amended to remove the Board's monopoly on barley and the Western Canadian farmers will have the freedom to choose how they market their barley beginning August 1, 2007.

"We committed to Western Canadian farmers that Canada's New Government would give them the right to market their own barley. Promise made, promise kept," said Minister Strahl. "I am very pleased that the new regulations are now in place and that as of August 1 of this year, barley farmers will have the freedom to choose to who they sell their grain."

In a plebiscite held earlier this year, 62 percent of barley producers voted to remove the CWB's monopoly on barley sales. The Government published draft regulations to amend the monopoly powers of the CWB in the April 21 edition of the Canada Gazette. Following a careful review of public comments on the draft regulations, the Government has now made a final regulation.

The amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette Part II on June 27, 2007. They remove barley and barley products from the CWB's single-desk authority and permit farmers to sell their barley to any domestic or foreign buyer, including the CWB. The CWB will continue to pool barley and be a viable option for farmers, and the Government will continue to guarantee the initial payments to producers for those who want to continue to sell through the CWB.

The amendments to Canadian Wheat Board Regulations will be available at www.pco.gc.ca as of June 12, 2007.

BACKGROUNDER

The Implementation of Marketing Choice

A majority of barley producers in Western Canada expressed a clear preference - 62 percent - for marketing choice in the plebiscite on barley held earlier this year.

Minister Strahl proposed amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations to remove barley from the Board's single desk authority. These amendments were approved by the Governor-in-Council on June 7 and will come into force on August 1, 2007 - in time for the 2007-08 crop year.

The regulations that have been put into place will permit producers to make the economic and marketing decisions that are right for their particular operation and to allow them to maximize returns from the sale of their barley.

For many farmers, there will be little change. Most barley producers already grow and sell crops other than the ones under the single desk authority of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and will have a good idea of what to do with their barley. Some may make direct sales to maltsters and other processors. Others will deliver their barley to a local grain elevator just as they do now. However, under the new regulations, they will be able to choose between selling it to the company operating the elevator or selling it through the CWB.

Barley producers will be able to price their product on the spot market by calling around to different local elevators just as producers of other crops do now. They will also be able to manage price risk by entering into revised barley futures contracts on the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

There is a strong demand for barley in Canada and abroad. Under the new regulations, Western Canadian producers will have the choice of selling to the buyer of their choice, including the CWB. The CWB has a base of producers, who will be able to provide it with a large volume of barley to sell on their behalf, and who will want to continue to market their grain collectively through a producer-controlled marketer.

The Government will continue to guarantee the CWB's borrowings and initial payments under the conditions set out in the Canadian Wheat Board Act. The proposed change in the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations will not alter the federal export credit guarantee programs.

Cash advances are currently provided to farmers under the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act (AMPA). It is available to a wide range of producers, and barley producers will continue to be eligible for cash advances in the marketing choice environment.

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Fed Ag Minister not Happy with SM5 Group

Crawford Falconer, chair of the WTO Agriculture committee has put forward a paper that entirely disregards Canada's stated position on sensitive products. If Falconer's ideas are approved in their current form in the final round, Canadian agricultural officials say the outcome would be devastating for Canada's supply managed industries.

I asked Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl why would Falconer do what he did.  Strahl replied it was, in his opinion, because Canada was not in there negotiating. "Our (the federal government's) position, which the supply managed sector has insisted on, is that we don't talk about any changes. 

"I keep telling them (SM5), why don't we get in there and make sure our interests are defended. They keep coming back with 'don't even talk about changes'. "We have the best negotiator in the world in Steve Verheul, (other countries) are talking about changes, and they (SM5) don't even want us to be in the room talking about changes. It is the stupidest tactic I can think of.

"So instead of Steve being in there and going to bat for them, he sits outside the room because all he can say is that we refuse to have any changes because our supply managed sectors can't live with any changes."

"It's crazy! The supply managed guys are shooting themselves in the foot over this. All of us want to save the supply managed industries and even I can save the core of the supply managed system, but not by sitting on the outside looking in."

Minister Strahl says he has told SM5 they should be urging the government to get in there and defend supply management at every opportunity. Instead, they assisted with the passing of a House of Commons motion not to talk about changes.

Steve Verheul, Canada's chief negotiator says the position of no changes for the Supply Managed sector does create challenges. "If another country wants to talk to me, and is interested in discussing changes to existing import rules, or tariff regulations in exchange for consideration of improved access to their market, I have to decline as my instructions are not to negotiate any changes to Canada's supply managed system."

However Mr. Verheul continues to negotiate for the non- supply managed commodities and expects the negotiations will be broadened soon to include a wider range of issues most of which are the responsibility of Canada's International Trade Minister David Emerson. 

Mr. Verheul noted that the pace of the talks has quickened in the last month with four power talks now underway involving the U.S., Europe, Brazil, and India.  "They have held several technical and ministerial meetings in recent weeks, and plan to accelerate their talks in the coming weeks," stated Mr. Verheul.

When asked if there was any possibility that the U.S. and Europe could again approve a unilateral agreement similar to what they did in 1995 to the detriment of all other countries, Mr. Verheul said he doubted that could happen again. He is of the opinion that there are many more countries taking an active role in the talks, emerging countries in particular, and that means a two- country agreement would be unlikely.

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Proposed Amendments for Barley

The amendments to the Regulations would implement marketing choice for
barley effective August 1, 2007.

Click here to view.

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Deadline for 2007 CAIS sign-up extended

April 18, 2007 -- The deadline for producers to join the 2007 Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program and pay their 2007 nationally mandated fee has been extended to November 30, 2007, while proposed changes to business risk management programs are under discussion.

The 2006 program deadlines have not changed. Producers are still required to pay their fee by April 30, 2007 to be eligible for the 2006 program.

Currently the CAIS program requires participants to elect a level of protection at the beginning of their fiscal year and pay a program fee of $4.50 per $1,000 of reference margin protected. The final deadline for new participants to sign up for the CAIS 2007 program year was April 30, 2007. Existing participants are automatically deemed to be participating at the level chosen the previous program year. Due to proposed changes, the election deadline for new participants has been extended to November 30, 2007. The deadline for payment of the 2007 fee has also been extended due to the proposed program changes to November 30, 2007.

The CAIS program fee was introduced in the 2006 program year as a replacement for the producer deposit. 2006 program year participants are still required to pay the program fee for the 2006 program year. The final deadline for payment for the 2006 program fee is April 30, 2007. Participants are required to complete the program forms to be eligible for program benefits for 2006. The deadline to submit 2006 program forms is September 30, 2007. Producers are encouraged to submit their application early for a quicker turnaround.

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Thank You

The 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge is an opportunity to again realize what we received from the bravery of the people living during those days.  How lucky we are to live in Canada and have a democratic country that allows us freedom & choice!!

One of the reasons we are lucky is that the barley vote gave us CHOICE - not to be forced against our will.

Thank you to those who gave us our freedoms.

What follows is the text from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech at Vimy Ridge.

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Vimy Ridge 2007

VIMY, France (CP) - The text of a speech given by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the rededication Monday of the restored Vimy Memorial in France:

Your Majesty, Mr. Prime Minister of the Republic of France, distinguished guests, veterans, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for honouring us with your presence today.

We Canadians here today are a long way from home but there may be no place on Earth that makes us feel more Canadian, because we sense all around us the presence of our ancestors.

If we close our eyes we can see them, dressed in their olive khaki uniforms, rifles slung over their shoulders, the distinct wide-brimmed helmet perched on their heads.

They are emerging from their filthy trenches, trudging through the boot-sucking mud, passing the skeletons of trees and the shell holes of blood, surrounded by the horrible noises of war.

Overhead, the Canadian Red Ensign is fluttering through the smoke.

One hundred thousand brave Canadians fought here 90 years ago today. Three thousand five hundred and ninety-eight died.

Every nation has a creation story to tell.

The First World War and the battle of Vimy Ridge are central to the story of our country.

The names of all the great battles are well known to Canadians and Newfoundlanders, but we know the name of Vimy best of all, because it was here for the first time that our entire army fought together on the battlefield and the result was a spectacular victory, a stunning breakthrough that helped turn the war in the allies favour.

Often, the importance of historical events is only understood with the benefit of hindsight but at Vimy everybody immediately realized the enormity of the achievement.

Brig-Gen. Alexander Ross famously said that when he looked out across the battlefield he saw, and I quote, "Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade," and that he felt he was witnessing the birth of a nation.

The year after the war ended the brilliant Canadian commander at Vimy, Sir Arthur Currie, put it another way in a speech at Toronto's Empire Club.

Canada was a nation of immigrants before 1914, he said. Now these men who have come back are your very own.

Nothing tells our story of the First World War as eloquently or as powerfully as this extraordinary monument. It reminds us of the enormity of their sacrifice and the enormity of our duty to follow their example and to love our country and defend its freedom for ever.

The veterans of Vimy passed their stories to their children, who passed it to theirs, who passed it to us, who are passing it to our children.

Thousands of them are with us today. And some of them will return here someday with their own children, and their grandchildren.

Because nothing tells our story of the First World War as eloquently or as powerfully as Walter Allward's extraordinary monument to the 11, 285 Canadians who fell in France with no known resting place.

Allward said he was inspired by a dream. He saw thousands of Canadians fighting and dying in the vast battlefield. Then, through an avenue of giant poplars, a mighty army came marching to their rescue. They were the dead, Allward said. They rose in masses and entered to fight and aid the living: I have tried to show this in this monument to Canada's fallen, what we owed them, and will owe them forever.

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Farmers Vote to End Canadian Wheat Board Barley Monopoly

Click here for the barley vote results

OTTAWA (CP) - Western Canadian farmers have voted to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley sales.

A total of 62 per cent of just over 29,000 farmers who cast eligible ballots said they wanted the board out of the barley market altogether, or for the board to be maintained in a competitive market.

Another 38 per cent said they wanted to maintain the status quo.

A government spokesman said federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl will now take steps to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act to remove the barley monopoly.

Its directors have said the wheat board will have to get out of the market because it won't be able to compete without government funding to buy ports and grain elevators.

Supporters of the government say they've waited for years for the right to decide how to market their own grain.

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Forum on Agriculture on CPAC

Garry Breitkreuz, Conservative Member of Parliament for Yorkton - Melville, Saskatchewan, organized this forum in Yorkton on March 23, 2007.

Monday, April 2nd at 1:30PM ET / 10:30AM PT to be repeated later during the day in the Public Record portion.

This session includes an introduction by Breitkreuz, followed by a speech from federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl.

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WBGA Calls for Immediate Action

Government must take action as soon as the results of the barley plebiscite are
made public.

The government needs to move fast towards removing barley from the monopoly as soon as possible.

Following is a copy of WBGA's letter stressing this point once again.

What is needed is support letters of the same nature. WBGA is encouraging our
members to review and write their own as well. We must make Ottawa aware that change is needed now. Our malting industries are stating that they need to know what is happening before April 1, we need change to come into effect as of August 1.

We are aware of a possible election call this spring, yet the government can
through an order in council make the necessary changes.

March 7, 2007
 
Honourable Chuck Strahl, PC, MP
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and
Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Minister Stahl:

As we close in on the end of the barley plebiscite and await its results I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and our government for the work done in working towards an environment where choice for barley producers can be realized. As you stated very clearly at the joint convention of the WBGA/WCWGA in mid February, it is a key objective of you, and our government is to provide choice.

Yet as we approach spring we, as producers, must know where the government intends to go with this file. We need barley free from the monopoly powers by August 1/07. It must be stressed that we fully expect the CWB to remain a choice when it comes to marketing barley - with out the monopoly.  Fast transition is needed not only for producers but our industry partners as well. At our convention, Rahr Malting stated it wants to work with producers, and needs to know if it can as soon as possible. With this, they are going out on a limb, and offering contracts to producers that offer very attractive prices for malt barley this harvest. I believe other Maltsters are ready to follow suit.

Our grain handling industry and the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange have also stated that they are ready to work with barley free of the monopoly. As you know many of our grain handling companies have strong international relations with foreign buyers and have developed markets with them. There will be push back, we have seen this all along during the plebiscite, and the debate of the survival of the CWB will not end if barley is removed.  You and your government must continue to show its strength and leadership and move forward. 

If a clear majority of producers want choice we (WBGA) will be calling upon the CWB board of directors to make the necessary changes themselves.

Yet I encourage you and our government to move forward with the necessary changes as well. Barley producers are ready for change, we won't go backwards, we need change to survive and obtain the many opportunities we see out there. Be it building on our livestock-feeding sector or new value added sectors such as bio-fuels or food fractionation. Our producers are ready, and are ready to move/market their barley, where ever and whenever.  Even if it means breaking the law once again - just to survive!

Sincere regards
Jeff Nielsen
President ~ WBGA
Olds, AB
Phone: (403) 556-0408
jeffniel@platinum.ca

cc: 
Mr. David Anderson, MP
Mark Cameron, Director, Policy and Research, Office of the Prime Minister

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2007 Official Barley Plebiscite Information Centre

The Federal Government is committed to moving forward in providing marketing choice to Western Barley Farmers, allowing them to maximize their returns, while continuing to preserve a strong Canadian Wheat Board. This website has been developed to provide up to date vote information for Western Canadian Barley producers.

This site is managed by KPMG, LLP an independent accounting firm that has been selected as the Vote Administrator and Chief Returning Officer for the 2007 Barley Plebiscite.

If you believe you are an eligible producer entitled to a vote and have not received your ballot and declaration by February 15, 2007 please call our toll free number at 1-888-322-7539 (1-888-3BARLEY) or e-mail your name and address to 2007barleyvote@kpmg.ca after February 15, 2007 and a ballot and declaration will be mailed to you.

Click here to ensure that your voice is heard!!

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Minister Strahl Assures Barley Ballot is a Secret Vote

February 23, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today issued the following statement to reassure producers that the barley plebiscite currently underway is secret and urged them to vote.

"As the voting period progresses, the scare tactics from pro-monopoly supporters are mounting and are intended to dissuade producers from having their voices heard.

"KPMG, as election coordinator, is managing the plebiscite process and will provide the Government with the tabulated results. I want to reassure producers that this is a secret ballot and that no one from the Government will see the votes or have access to the information.

"KPMG addresses the question of voter confidentiality clearly and explicitly on the 2007 official plebiscite information centre at www.2007barleyvote.ca. It states that in accordance with the applicable privacy laws, all records will be confidential and used only for purposes of the vote. 

"We are now halfway through the voting process. I encourage all eligible barley producers to participate in this plebiscite by taking the time to fill out their declaration form and ballot and choose how they want to market their grain.

"I want to be clear that this plebiscite is open to all barley producers in the Canadian Wheat Board designated area, who have produced barley in at least one of the past 5 years and produced grain in 2006, including those who have grown barley for use on their own farm as feed or seed, or sold their product to a feedlot, or to the CWB.

"If you believe you are eligible to vote and have not yet received a voter package, I encourage you to contact the election coordinator before March 2 at 1-888-3BARLEY (1-888-322-7539) or at www.2007barleyvote.ca to make arrangements to have a package mailed to you."

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Access to Information Act to Include Canadian Wheat Board

February 23, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today issued the following statement regarding the inclusion of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) under the Access to Information Act, effective April 1, 2007.

"Canada's New Government is delivering on one of the key commitments of the Federal Accountability Act by expanding coverage of the Access to Information Act to include the CWB, as well as five foundations and five Agents of Parliament.

"By extending application of the Access to Information Act to the CWB, we are making the organization more open and transparent by providing Canadians with broader access to information.

"The administrative costs of the CWB now amount to nearly $70 million annually. Farmers should have a way of scrutinizing those costs.

"I want to be clear that the Canadian Wheat Board's inclusion in the Act will not require it to release commercially sensitive information. Such information is protected by the Access to Information Act.

"Canada's New Government is committed to providing marketing choice to Western grain farmers, while preserving a strong and transparent CWB."

For information on the Government's path towards marketing choice, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/cwb

For information on the Federal Accountability Act, please visit www.tbs-sct.gc.ca

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Co-Founder Leo McDonnell Testifies at Senate Hearing Against OTM Canadian Cattle Imports

February 22, 2007 -- R-CALF USA Co-Founder/Past President Leo McDonnell testified here Wednesday on behalf of the organization at a hearing on the policy implications of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) proposed rule on importing Canadian cattle older than 30 months (OTM) of age. The Interstate Commerce, Trade and Tourism Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation conducted the hearing.

"USDA is considering allowing into the U.S. OTM beef and cattle from Canada - product that is banned for health concerns from nearly all international markets, product that the U.S. cannot even export to our primary export markets," McDonnell said. "USDA's action will make the United States a dumping ground for beef and cattle banned from major international markets, and at the same time, U.S. cattle producers are being lobbied against by major importers here in the U.S. from being able to differentiate their product with country-of-origin labeling (COOL).

"Who benefits from these actions," McDonnell asked. "Not U.S. consumers; not the U.S. producer."

McDonnell also emphasized that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is not a North American problem, but a Canadian problem. Canada has tested approximately 140,000 head of cattle for the disease since 2004 and identified eight of those animals as positive for BSE. The U.S. has tested more than 800,000 cattle for BSE and discovered only two native cases, both of which were found to be carrying the atypical type of BSE.

"The science of typical BSE and atypical BSE does not support calling this a North American problem - it is a Canadian problem that seems to be growing in Canadian cattle born after their (1997) meat and bone meal ban," McDonnell continued.

"Make no doubt about it - if USDA is allowed to proceed in allowing OTM beef and cattle into the United States, then the full weight of Canada's BSE problem will be shifted from Canada and put on the shoulders of U.S. ranchers," he warned. "You don't manage risk by increasing exposure. Sound science tells you that you do not eradicate a disease by increasing exposure.

"The U.S. should pursue sound science that is practiced by our major importing countries, and we should strive to upwardly harmonize these import standards and practices surrounding health and safety, not lower them," McDonnell urged.

Also, R-CALF USA believes that because the U.S. commingles Canadian cattle and beef with U.S. cattle and beef, it just isn't logical to expect that Canada's weaker feed ban, its inferior testing program, and its least restrictive SRM (specified risk materials) policies would help the U.S. restore lost beef markets and gain new ones.

Additionally, R-CALF USA believes Canada has failed to implement practices used in other BSE-affected countries to reduce the incidence of mad cow disease and protect consumers.

R-CALF USA Co-Founder and Past Director Herman Schumacher said the hearing went very well.

"Leo gave some very strong testimony, and Senator Dorgan referred back to Leo's testimony on more than one occasion," Schumacher said. "The Senator also asked some good, tough questions. He did a heck of a job."

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry.  R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners.  R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members.

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Members 'Stampede' into Nation's Capitol to Discuss Cattle Producer Issues

February 19, 2007 -- More than five dozen R-CALF USA volunteers from 20 states traveled to the nation's capitol for a three-day 'Stampede' to discuss issues important to the U.S. cattle industry with members of Congress, representatives of federal agencies, including Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, as well as Administration representatives, and others who have an interest in industry regulations.

"Our members braved the cold and the Valentine's Day blizzard to make sure that the concerns of independent cattle producers were represented on Capitol Hill," said R-CALF USA Government Relations Coordinator Abra Belke. "Even as many government offices were closing due to the inclement weather, our members 'cowboyed up' and trudged through the storm to make sure that our issues were discussed with members of Congress, as well as high-level Administration officials."

R-CALF USA Checkoff Committee Chair Jim Hanna said the Stampede gave members an excellent opportunity to meet with the decision-makers in Washington, D.C., so they would understand the organization's position on reforming the Beef Checkoff Program to promote U.S.A. beef instead of generic beef products, and the need for more oversight and more information available to producers with regard to how Beef Checkoff dollars are spent.

"We had really good reception on the Checkoff reforms, especially with Secretary Johanns, who took a lot of notes and paid really close attention when we were talking," Hanna said. "We didn't receive any argument or disagreement about the changes that need to be made. A lot of the issues we take to Congress, we end up trying to defend and explain our position, but with the Checkoff survey results so strongly in our favor, USDA basically can't argue with those. I think R-CALF can look forward to accomplishing a lot regarding the Beef Checkoff during the coming year."

Other topics of concern R-CALF USA members discussed included moving up the implementation date of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw its proposed Rule 2 that deals with resuming imports of Canadian cattle over 30 months (OTM) of age, banning captive-supply and livestock ownership practices of meat packers, and correcting the Interstate Meat Inspection Act so smaller packers can ship their products across state lines. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said these are the core issues that affect the profitability of U.S. cattle producers, and Stampede participants did an outstanding job of elevating these issues for the new Congress.

This was the second time for Louisiana cattle producer Mike Kovac to participate in R-CALF USA's Stampede. He said this year was even better than last February's event.

"It seems like Congress and USDA listened more than they did last year and just had a better understanding of what U.S. cattle producers need," Kovac said. "It seemed like everybody was more receptive. We discussed including a cattle chapter in the upcoming Farm Bill to resolve competition issues, and we also discussed moving up the implementation date for COOL, and addressing producer concerns about the Checkoff.

"The trip was well worthwhile because it's important that Congress hear from producers," Kovac continued. "It's also important that they know we have to pay our own way to participate in the R-CALF Stampede, and that they know we think it's worth spending $1,500 or more of our own money to make sure members of Congress hear our message."

Louis Day, of Valentine, Neb., echoed that sentiment.

"I thought it was worth all the expense and the time because on the first day we got to meet with both of our Senators and all three of our Congressmen," Day said. "My biggest deal was to stress what a stranglehold the multinational packers have on captive supplies, and to explain that for every 1 percent of supply they control, they can control their profits by 2 percent." 

R-CALF USA Wisconsin Membership Chair Kevin Kirschbaum said he was pleased to learn that his Senators and Representatives are on board with most of the organization's issues. 

"They were very appreciative to see us - their constituents - come to them with thoughts and ideas," Kirschbaum said. "They all were very open-minded, and all understood the common-sense advantages of COOL, interstate shipment of meat, and many of our other concerns. It was great to see all the other R-CALF ranchers from across the country in our nation's capitol supporting their industry."

Bullard said participants again made history by demonstrating to our nation's leaders that there are real people whose lives are affected by these issues.

"Each and every one of the visits our members made will elevate the stature of these issues, and the people they spoke with will remember these meetings for a long time to come," Bullard said. "The annual Stampede strengthens R-CALF's ability to establish a solid foundation that the organization will continue to build upon throughout the year to advance these important matters.

"Every Stampede participant is sincerely committed to improving the U.S. cattle industry and supporting what Congress is all about - and that's the maintenance of a free enterprise system - a system that promotes and facilitates an open and competitive marketplace," Bullard concluded. "R-CALF USA members are the ones delivering that message, and it is one powerful message."

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry.  R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners.  R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members.

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Agricore United and James Richardson International to Create Global Agri-Business

February 21, 2007 -- Agricore United (TSX:AU) and James Richardson International Limited ("JRI")  announced today that they have agreed to combine to create Canada's largest grain company and a leading global Canadian agri-business. Under the proposal, Agricore United shareholders will receive $6.50 in cash and 0.509 shares of the combined company for each Limited Voting Common Share.  Holders of Series A convertible preferred shares of Agricore United will receive $24.00 in cash per share. The Board of Directors of Agricore United will recommend that shareholders accept the offer from JRI.

"Today marks a significant development in the history of these two companies," says Wayne Drul, Chair of the Agricore United Board of Directors.  "Agricore United's agricultural roots go back to 1906, and JRI is currently celebrating its 150th anniversary.  With our combined heritage, expertise and reputation for excellence in this industry, the merger of these two organizations offers an outstanding agri-business solution for shareholders, customers and employees."

"The combined company, Richardson Agricore Limited, will be a true Canadian champion, with a broad mix of businesses across Canada and the scale, management expertise and financial strength to compete globally," said JRI Chairman, Hartley Richardson.  "The combined company will be well-positioned to create significant value for its shareholders and connect its customers to even greater market opportunities than we can today.  It will carry on the Richardson family's commitment to being a trusted partner to Canada's farming communities. It will also have a governance structure that ensures the direct and ongoing input of producers."

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Canadian Wheat Board Threatens to Stop Selling Barley

February 21, 2007 -- Ken Ritter Chairman of the board of the Canadian Wheat Board is musing that the CWB could somehow ignore their legislated requirement to buy all grain offered to it by producers.*

"Mr. Ritter's statements are nothing more than empty rhetoric, bordering on violating the CWB's own code of conduct for directors" says Jeff Nielsen, President of the Western Barley Growers Association.  "Directors are to act in the best interest of the corporation, even the threat to contravene the CWB Act but refusing to market barley is in at best very poor judgment and at worst a violation of the directors code of conduct." Nielsen states, "As the CWB is not accountable to farmers and has no legal duty of care to farmers, then it is up to the Minister and the disciplinary committee of the CWB to decide if Mr. Ritter's comments are in violation of the Act"

The CWB operates in the domestic feed barley market and has never complained that they were limited by not having handling facilities, or port terminals. 

The CWB is a fully functioning system in the domestic feed business, states Nielsen, and they will continue to be if the open market is expanded to include malt and export barley. The export feed market is already open for feed mills says Nielsen, and the CWB still exports feed barley.  "Mr. Ritter's comments that the CWB cannot compete with an open market ring hollow when the CWB already operates with an open market with domestic and export feed barley. The WBGA is working with farmers and government to provide a choice market environment for farmers with the CWB" concludes Nielsen.  For more information go to www.barleyvote.ca

*32. (1) The Corporation shall undertake the marketing of wheat produced in the designated area in interprovincial and export trade and for that purpose shall 

(a) buy all wheat produced in the designated area and offered by a producer for sale and delivery to the Corporation at an elevator, in a railway car or at any other place in accordance with this Act and the regulations and orders of the Corporation

Regulation 9. Parts III and IV of the Act are hereby extended to barley.

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Farmer Forums

The CWB is your business. Meet your elected CWB director. Learn about the
issues. Help shape your CWB's future by sharing your views.

Locations by director

  • Henry Vos, District 1

    • Feb. 28 Westlock, AB Westlock Inn

    • Mar. 1  Dawson Creek, BC George Dawson Centre

    • Mar. 2  Grimshaw, AB New Horizon Centre

  • James Chatenay, District 2

    • Mar. 7 Lacombe, AB Lacombe Curling Rink

    • Mar. 13  Hussar, AB Hussar Community Hall

    • Mar. 14  Beiseker, AB Beiseker Hall

  • Larry Hill, District 3

    • Feb. 16 Lethbridge, AB  Lunch - Lethbridge Exhibition Park - Heritage Hall

    • Mar. 13 Richmound, SK Richmound Community Hall

  • Ken Ritter, District 4

    • Mar. 8 Killam, SK Killam Town Hall

    • Mar. 12 Plenty, SK Plenty Community Hall

    • Mar. 15 Eston, SK Community Centre Mezzanine

  • Alan Oberg, District 5

    • Mar. 8 Radisson, SK Radisson Town Hall

    • Mar. 14 Lloydminster, SK Best Western Wayside Inn

    • Mar. 15 Andrew, AB Andrew Community Centre

  • Ian McCreary , District 6 

    • Feb. 22 Wakaw, SK Legion Hall

    • Mar. 5  Nokomis, SK Town Hall

    • Mar. 15  Bethune, SK Community Hall

  • Kyle Korneychuk, District 7

    • Mar. 6 Ituna, SK Beverage Room, Ituna Hotel

    • Mar. 6  Raymore, SK Elks Hall

    • Mar. 12  Naicam, SK Town Hall

  • Rod Flaman, District 8

    • Mar. 12 Mossbank, SK Legion Hall

    • Mar. 13  Pense, SK Pense Town Hall

    • Mar. 14  Stoughton, SK Legion Hall

  • Bill Nicholson, District 9

    • Mar. 5  Dauphin, MB  Parkland Rec Complex

    • Mar. 15  Kamsack, SK Woodlander Inn

    • Mar. 19  Russell, MB Russell Inn

  • Bill Toews, District 10 

    • Feb. 28  Arborg, MB Zan's Family Inn

    • Mar. 7  Morris, MB Morris Curling Club

    • Mar. 14 Neepawa, MB Legion Hall

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Minister Strahl Encourages Western Grain Producers to Vote During Plebiscite on Marketing Choice for Barley

February 16, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today urged eligible producers to vote in the government's plebiscite on marketing choice for barley.

Speaking at the joint convention of the Western Barley Growers Association and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association Minister Strahl said: "Voting packages for the plebiscite on marketing choice for barley have now been mailed out to eligible producers and I am encouraging all who are eligible to take the time to fill out the declaration form and ballot and to make your voices heard on this question."

To be eligible, you must have produced grain in 2006 and must have produced barley in at least one of the years between 2002 and 2006.

"I want to be clear that this plebiscite is open to all barley producers in the Canadian Wheat Board designated area including those who did not sell their barley to the CWB, but who may have grown barley for use on their own farm as feed or seed, or sold it to a feed lot," said Minister Strahl.

Producers who believe they are eligible to vote and have not yet received a voter package, are encouraged to contact the election co-ordinator before March 2 at 1-888-3BARLEY (1-888-322-7539) or at http://www.2007barleyvote.ca to make arrangements to have a package mailed to them.

Ballots, as well as a completed declaration form, must be returned to the election co-ordinator postmarked no later than March 13.

Canada's New Government is committed to moving forward with providing marketing choice to western barley farmers, allowing them to maximize their returns, while at the same time, preserving a strong, voluntary Canadian Wheat Board.

For more information on marketing choice, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/cwb 

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All we are saying is give choice a chance

It's not just about the money

February 12, 2007 -- Last Thursday, some 40,000 barley farmers across western Canada began receiving ballots for a plebiscite on how their barley is marketed.

This vote could well change how many farmers go about their business.

Since the Second World War, barley producers west of Ontario have had just one option for barley destined for export or human consumption (mainly malt barley) -- the Canadian Wheat Board.

Anyone in any other business knows that having just one customer severely limits your ability to grow and manage your cash flow and overall operations, particularly when that customer arbitrarily dictates what it's going to pay, when it's going to pay and when it will accept delivery.

Imagine an arm's-length government agency charged with selling all of western Canada's oil exports.

Then imagine the agency telling producers in Alberta's oilpatch that they'll be paid $45 a barrel for something that's selling for $60 a barrel across the border (or across an ocean).

Oil producers would demand the same thing barley farmers are asking for: market choice. For several years, the Alberta Barley Commission has supported the notion and principles of market choice. We see it as a definitive means of giving Alberta's 17,000 barley producers more control over their businesses. It would allow them to decide when and where they sell their product and at what price.

Market choice is not just about money. It will give producers more options on how they grow their barley, and opportunities to invest in long-term client relationships, new technology, production methods and value chains. Market choice is good for agriculture and good for business.

The federal government's barley plebiscite puts the future of barley marketing firmly in the hands of producers. For more than 150 years, innovation, technology, stewardship and entrepreneurship have been the foundation of our industry. As we prepare for the realities and demands of the "new agriculture" in a global marketplace, the opportunities market choice will offer are essential for new and veteran farm businesses.

As an Alberta barley producer, I believe those opportunities will extend to the CWB. The board is known here and around the world for its grain-market knowledge and sales; it could well continue to be a viable option for many producers.

Contrary to much of the rhetoric surrounding this plebiscite, this vote is not about dismantling an organization that has a long history and tremendous potential in international agriculture.

This plebiscite is about moving nimbly into the future and giving western producers what barley farmers east of Manitoba and businesses across the country take for granted: the ability to operate in an open marketplace. 

Terry Young is chair of The Alberta Barley Commission, a provincially legislated body that represents all barley growers in Alberta.

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CWB Board of Directors continue to break the law and spend producers’ monies

February 1, 2007 -- Some of the farmer elected directors continue to do whatever they can to discredit their own Minister, the Honourable Chuck Stralh,  The Canadian government, along with Minister Strahl, has the right to enforce the directors of the Canadian Wheat Board to follow the CWB Act:

Section 18(1) the Governor in Council may, by order, direct the Corporation with respect to the manner, in which any of its operations, powers and duties under this Act shall be conducted, exercised or performed.

“By legally challenging the Government over the appointment and compensation of interim CEO and President Greg Arason, these directors have split the board and continue to blatantly spend producer pooled monies” says Jeff Nielsen, President of the Western Barley Growers Association. As for the interim CEO/President Arason the CWB Act states:

Section 3.09 (3)
Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, the Governor in Council may appoint a transitional president and fix the remuneration to be paid to him or her.

For six weeks the board ignored their own Act in refusing to pay and recognize Mr. Arason. “Apparently some of the directors for the CWB believe they can interpret the Act in a manner that suits their needs best, and ignore the costs they are incurring to producer pool accounts and ultimately the returns to individual producers” continues Nielsen.  “I call upon Chairman Ken Ritter to uphold his fiduciary duties, and do what is needed under law, and focus the board on its primary objective as stated in the Act, that being to sell all grains offered to it, and return proceeds less administration back to producers.”

“As a sound businessman, producer and a lawyer himself, Mr. Ritter knows that continuing to challenge Canadian law and spending of producer monies is wrong, and these actions are damaging the CWB’s reputation, not just here at home but with our international customers as well” says Tom Hewson, WBGA Vice President.

Nielsen goes on to say, “The CWB must follow the laws and orders put forward to it. If not, then those directors that continue to challenge the government must face the fact that they are breaking the law. The former Liberal government put 13 farmers in jail for trying to improve their farm gate returns.  Perhaps it is time to jail some of the CWB directors for breaking the CWB Act”

WBGA calls upon producers to call their CWB director and ask him to stop the madness and focus their efforts on the mandate stated in the Act.  We also ask all barley producers to make their voice heard in the upcoming barley plebiscite. For more information go to www.barleyvote.ca

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WCE Has Risk Management Vehicle Ready for Dual Marketing in Barley

January 30, 2007 -- Winnipeg Commodity Exchange Inc. (WCE) is confident that revisions made to the Western Barley Futures Contract that are effective with the October 2007 contract will result in the development of an international barley contract on the scale of the current canola contract when dual marketing is implemented. Winnipeg will become the price discovery and risk management center for international barley trade.

The contract is structured to function for producers, domestic and international consumers and processors, exporters, grain companies, investors and the Canadian Wheat Board. As with canola today the revised contract under dual marketing will price barley on the Canadian prairies reflecting both domestic and international market activity.

The current Western Barley Futures Contract has proven to be an excellent price discovery and risk management tool for domestic barley producers and consumers, however, because of the existence of the CWB monopoly, arbitrage opportunities between the domestic and export market cannot be fully incorporated in the price.

Today prairie barley farmers are not getting sufficient price signals from the export market. CWB PROs do not provide farmers with accurate and timely price signals for the current or deferred export market and therefore cannot be relied on by farmers as an indication of whether they are achieving a fair price in the domestic market relative to the world price. Under dual marketing the Western Barley Futures Contract would provide those needed price signals.

Farmers have come to rely on WCE to successfully hedge and price their canola. Canola production, exports and value added processing in Canada have steadily increased over the past two decades as producers have responded to visible price signals provided by the WCE canola contract. In addition market participants world-wide rely on WCE as the premiere price discovery and risk management tool for global canola and rapeseed. These same price signals are needed for barley if farmers are going to achieve the same results in marketing their barley crop.

Data collected and analyzed by Informa Economics (available on the WCE Website www.wce.ca) shows that the current PROs for feed barley understate the value of export feed barley in central Saskatchewan by as much as $34.00 per tonne. Farmers are able to respond to market conditions only if the appropriate price signals are received.

As a first step to providing these needed price signals WCE is providing weekly export price data on the Website at www.wce.ca. This price data can be used by market participants as an indication of whether they are achieving a competitive price in the domestic market or from the CWB PRO relative to the world market.

Winnipeg Commodity Exchange Inc., established in 1887, has been facilitating futures contract trading since 1904. WCE is Canada's only agricultural futures and options exchange and North America's first fully electronic commodity exchange. WCE offers futures and options contracts on canola, domestic feed wheat, and western barley.

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Changes at the Top: Agriculture Canada gets New Deputy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the following changes in the senior ranks of the Public Service:

Leonard Edwards, currently Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, becomes Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, effective March 5, 2007. Mr. Edwards succeeds Peter Harder who is leaving the Public Service after a distinguished career of 29 years of service.

Yaprak Baltacioglu, currently Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Operations), Privy Council Office, becomes Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, effective March 5, 2007.

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Minister Strahl Simplifies Plebiscite Process

February 1, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today issued the following statement regarding the government's plebiscite on marketing choice for barley.

"Canada's New Government said it would consult with farmers and stakeholders. With this plebiscite, we're delivering on that commitment. To ensure the widest possible participation, I have asked officials to revise and simplify the producer declaration form that is required with the ballot. This has resulted in a delay of the mailing of the voters' package.

"I have instructed the international accounting firm KPMG LLP to mail the package to voters as quickly as possible.

"Eligible producers will still have the same length of time to vote, a total of five weeks. Ballots will be mailed out on Feb. 7 and the final day for ballots to be postmarked will be March 13. Eligible voters who have not received a package by Feb. 15 should contact the election coordinator at 1-800-3BARLEY (1-800-322-7539).

"Canada's New Government is committed to moving forward in providing marketing choice to western barley farmers, allowing them to maximize their returns, while continuing to preserve a strong Canadian Wheat Board."

For more information on marketing choice, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/cwb 

The Future of Marketing Grain: Why Choose Choice

January 22, 2007 -- Canada's New Government believes Western grain farmers should have the freedom to choose how they market their grain, allowing them to maximize their returns, while preserving a strong, viable, yet voluntary Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

Firstly, let me be clear about our government's intentions for the Board: It will be there for farmers. Recent events would suggest to me that the CWB clearly has a solid base of support among farmers and an excellent reputation with its  customers around the world, in the grain industry. And that is great news and assures me that the future of the Board remains strong. Given any change to the Board's monopoly on barley, I know there will be farmers who will want to continue doing business with it.

We believe that, since farmers take all the risks and make all the investments, they should not be punished or jailed for pursuing opportunities outside the Wheat Board that make good business sense. Whether selling to the Wheat Board or outside of it, farmers should be allowed to seek out the best price possible for their work.

Therefore, for many this is an issue of freedom. I know that farmers are strong, independent-minded folks who have been in the business for years if not generations. As farmers' are taking all the risk, it only seems fair to them that at the very least they should have the option on how best to market their grain. Just as those who produce canola or pulse crops or apples or cattle or any number of other farm products raised in Canada. 

But for others, the right to choose is not only an issue of freedom but comes down to dollars and cents. For example, an Ontario wheat grower selling hard red spring wheat with 13.5% protein would get about $5.50 per bushel right now in the spot market. A grower on the Prairies selling #1 Canada Western Red Spring with 13.5% protein through the Canadian Wheat Board is currently forecast to receive about $4.40 per bushel as a final pool return, $1.10 less than received by the Ontario farmer. And this projection can change. Not only would the Prairie grower receive less, but he or she would have to wait for months to find out how much less.

Lastly, there have been some studies published recently that claim that the removal of the CWB monopoly on barley will be detrimental to farmers, or that the CWB is a major economic driver of the economy. Other studies show the opposite. The fact of the matter is that it is the Canadian grain industry and the hard work of its producers that contributes to the economy. The CWB is a part and not the sum of the industry. Therefore, to suggest that jobs, buildings, or other tangible benefits somehow would not have existed without the CWB's monopoly is false and misleading. 

Therefore, we need to stop the fear-mongering that somehow a vote on barley represents the end of the Board - because it does not. The Wheat Board will be there. So let's allow farmers to have there say.

Additionally, many opponents of allowing farmers to have the freedom to choose say that our government has absolutely no support for what we are doing. Well, for starters, I would suggest that groups like the Western Barley Growers Association, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association support our efforts. Countless farmers across the prairies have written letters to their local papers in support for what we are doing. One person wrote: 

"I commend you for following through with your campaign promise to provide marketing choice to Western Canadian wheat and barley producers." (Western Producer, 2006.10.26)

In the upcoming plebiscite on barley I am urging barley producers to consider the option of choice - the option to market their product in the manner of their choosing to the Canadian Wheat Board or any other domestic or foreign buyer. We have also committed to hold a further plebiscite on the marketing of wheat at an appropriate time. Western Canadian farmers have the Government's commitment that no changes will be made in the Canadian Wheat Board's role in the marketing of wheat until after that vote is held. 

I look forward to what farmers have to say on this issue and trust that those
eligible to vote will take the opportunity to do so.

By: Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and Minister for the
Canadian Wheat Board

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Alberta Beef Producers Biofuels Information Summary

January 15, 2007 -- Since the Alberta government announced its $239 million bioenergy program and the federal government announced two bioproducts programs worth $345 million, Alberta Beef Producers' directors and staff have been trying to assess the potential effects of bioenergy development on our industry. The bioenergy programs provide financial incentives through renewable energy producer credits, tax credits, and support for commercialization, market development and infrastructure development. The federal government also will be regulating the use of renewable fuels through renewable content requirements in gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.

With a mandated demand policy and significant financial incentives for biofuels, we expect to see growth in the Alberta bioenergy industry. This growth could provide benefits for grain and oilseed producers, as well as opportunities for some of our beef producers.

However, we are concerned about the impact of the government policies and incentives on the size, competitiveness, and sustainability of both the cow/calf and feeding sectors of our industry. In order to help our members understand the potential effects of bioenergy development, Alberta Beef Producers has compiled the following summary of biofuel information and figures. We have also prepared a position paper that will be part of next week's Grass Routes weekly update and will be on our website. 

Visit the Grass Routes website by clicking here.

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Open Letter to the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Canadian Wheat Board and the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice

January 20, 2007 -- You and your party were elected as a minority government on the promise of creating a voluntary CWB.  When the new Wheat Board Act was passed in 1998 the Auditor General was given two years to investigate suspect activities in the old government-run Board.  We know this has never happened, nor have farmers been informed either the reason why or who stopped this important mandate given to the Auditor General in the hopes of making the Wheat Board more accountable to farmers.

The documents obtained by Andy McMechan and Ken Dillen through the Information Act, give accurate details regarding the way in which 170 Western farmers were charged with criminal offenses for exporting as little as one bag of grain without an Export License.  AT the same time allowing CWB, RCMP and government officials to export huge amounts of Western Milling Wheat into the United States through Ontario and Quebec, as off-board grain.

Ken Ritter's response of October 7, 2003, to my letter to the editor of September 23, 2003, should be challenged by you as Wheat Board Minister and the Auditor General by ordering a complete audit of the Wheat Board prior to 1998.

The letter of October 2, 2002 (copied to Ken Dillen, Howard Hilstrom, Canadian Alliance Saskatchewan Caucus) from Maurice Vellacott, MP to J. Paul Vienneau, Customs Investigator and the July 24, 2003, letter to Hon. Reg Alcock and opposition parties from my attorney, Neil Kravetsky, clearly identify the unlawful practices employed by the justice system to file criminal charges against Western farmers.

CWB employees have sworn and filed conflicting affidavits in the Ben-Ron and M-Jay lawsuits.  The Board of Directors must know the content of the affidavit of Gary Picklyk, Lawrence Klusa, Trevor Magee and the most recent affidavit of Marcello Dimarco.  Under no condition should farmers be asked to vote on the single desk or monopoly of the CWB until Western farmers know the contents and the truth of these affidavits.  Failure by CWB Directors and the Minister to inform all Western farmers of the affidavit details in advance of a referendum should be prosecuted under the public administration act.

The telegraphic transfer system for grain should be investigated for mismanagement or fraud on transportation costs.

The Wheat Board must answer to the charge in 1998 in the method of calculation of the buy-back of grain being exported into the USA.

The Wheat Board also has to explain why it forced Untied Grain Growers at Somerset and Manitou to destroy Storage Certificates of #3 Red Wheat and Malting Barley and sold the grain as non-board on behalf of Public Works Canada.  This grain was confiscated by the RCMP during "Operation Decode".

The abuse of farmers, like Andy McMechen, Bill Cairns, Norman Desrochers families and the Armand Leverault family, by Custom Investigators and the RCMP must also be dealt with.

Another fact that must be investigated is the way in which illegal drugs are entering Canada through port traffic.  The USA announcement that drones stationed in Grand Forks will patrol the Manitoba-USA border should shock government into reality.

In 1998 when RCMP agent John Mckay was expelled from the farmers' trial at Minnedosa by George Young, everyone asked why.  Thirty days later he was dead.  McKay was paid $250,000 US to entrap members of the Hell's Angels.  Still, drug arrest and murders are a weekly event.  Crystal Meth and cocaine addicts are creating a major political nightmare in the province of Manitoba.  In 1998 targets of "Operation Decode" were willing to talk provided they be given protection but Manitoba politicians had no interest.

The latest twist to Portage-Lisgar politics is a lawsuit filed by John M. Wiens of Morden and Bill Linden of Portage la Prairie on their own behalf and on behalf of the Conservative members of Canada, against Dave Harms, formerly of LaRiviere and Glen Wheeler of Crystal City.  The plaintiffs claim Harms and Wheeler transferred $10,5000 from Reform Party funds in Portage-Lisgar for their own personal use.

It's amazing how soon Stephen Harper has forgotten the donations sent to the National Citizens' Coalition to fight the secrecy of the Canadian Wheat Board and the Wheat Board Minister, Ralph Goodale, when Mr. Harper was President of the NCC.

The recent ruling by Elections Canada that the Conservative Party failed to declare $500,000 as donations badly taints the Party's claim as being a law-and-order Party.

The failure of Stephen Harper to answer three registered letters in 2002 from the Portage-Lisgar Independent Association speaks volumes of his sincerity to accountable politics.

The most recent letter to Mr. Irving Gerstein, December 5, 2006, CMO Ontario, by Mr. Dave Harms, still awaits a response to questions posed on the Court Action on July 20, 2006.

Yours truly,
Jake E. Hoeppner
Former MP for Portage-Lisgar Constituency

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Strahl Poll to Offer 3 Options on Barley

'Either-or' vote clashes with Tories' CWB 'vision'

January 19, 2007 -- The fate of the Canadian Wheat Board's barley monopoly is expected to be determined by a multi-question plebiscite ballot that could make it difficult for backers of the Winnipeg-based agency to win a majority.

The Free Press has learned that Chuck Strahl's Agriculture Department has been preparing a ballot for the key vote that gives farmers three options - instead of simply asking farmers whether they prefer selling barley on the open market.

Strahl's office would not comment on the wording of the ballot question, which will be revealed Monday in Red Deer, Alta.  The vote will be held from Jan. 31 to March 6.

But Conrad Bellehumeur, Strahl's director of communications, did not deny there may be more than two questions, saying an "either-or" situation does not reflect the Tory vision for the world's largest barley and wheat marketer.

"I cannot confirm how many (voting) boxes there may be.  There could be two, there could be more," Bellehumeur said.

"It (the ballot's wording) will reflect the government's vision to provide freedom of choice to producers."

A move away from the past plebiscite practice of asking voters to choose between two options will leave supporters of the CWB fuming, fuelling the political controversy already swirling around the CWB.  It would also fly in the face of the plebiscite wording jointly recommended by Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers and the major farm organizations in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Strahl appears determined to find a way to push forward his "ideological agenda" instead of really listening to farmers.

"What he (Strahl) is trying to do is muddy the waters and confuse things instead of having a straightforward question," Wowchuck said.

"He sees support for the CWB in Manitoba from our own plebiscite is strong, so he will muddy the waters and split the vote down the middle so he can get his way."

While Strahl's office won't confirm the ballot wording, his department has been preparing to ask farmers to choose from among three options:

  • Maintaining the CWB's current marketing monopoly over barley
  • No CWB role in the marketing of barley
  • Allowing the CWB to be an active participant in a free market for barley

CWB vice-president Deanna Allen said the board has been pretty clear with Strahl on what would be an acceptable ballot question and it's wrong for him to try to "seduce" farmers with a ballot question that leaves them believing they can have their "cake and eat it too" after the marketing monopoly its gone.

"You cannot have a strong and viable Canadian Wheat Board as we now know it with an open market," she said.  "An 'either or' question is the most intellectually honest question you can ask.  Anything else is just confusing."

But Bellehumeur disputes Allen's claim, saying the CWB can continue to thrive even if it loses its barley or wheat monopoly.

Bellehumeur said the question the Manitoba government used for its vote, the results of which were released this week was itself loaded.

"That would not be the ballot we would use," he said.  "It is not an all-or-nothing option."

Strahl has said he will not be bound by the results of the barley plebiscite.

Mike Bast, chairman of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, which has been among the biggest backers of the Tory plans for the CWB, said a three-option ballot is exactly what his group recommended to Strahl.

"That is the most accurate way to gauge farmers."

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Head of Elections Canada to Resign

December 29, 2006 -- Fresh from a dustup with the federal Conservative party over political financing rules, Jean-Pierre Kingsley announced Thursday he will resign as head of Elections Canada in February.

In his resignation letter, Kingsley pointedly noted the Feb. 17 date comes almost 17 years tot eh day after his appointment to the job was approved by the House of Commons on Feb. 16, 1990.

Despite the anniversary link, the timing of his announcement raises questions considering his recent spat with the ruling Conservatives over whether the party broke the law by failing to disclose more than $500,000 worth of political donations.

It also comes when the country could by only months away from another election.  All parties in the minority Parliament say they are in election-readiness mode, and that a possible trigger could be the Conservatives' next budget, expected in February.

Kingsley refused interview requests and spokesman John Enright said the letter speaks for itself.

There is nothing about the dispute in Kingsley's terse, three-paragraph letter to the speakers of the Commons and Senate, or in a statement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledging the resignation.

Harper recapped Kingsley's activities at home and abroad as the head of Elections Canada, but he was not effusive in his praise of Kinsley.

"During his long career in public administration, Mr. Kingsley has always served Canadians to the best of his ability," Harper said.  "The government appreciates his contributions and wishes him all the best in his future endeavours."

Harper said the government "intends to move as soon as possible to nominate a fully qualified candidate" to head Elections Canada.

The release of Harper's statement was the first public notice of Kingsley's intention.  Kingsley's office subsequently released the letter.

Kingsley, 63, said it was a "privilege" to serve Canadians in the job, and that he particularly appreciated the opportunity to help advance electoral democracy in other countries.

"Indeed, I'll be pursing my professional interests in the international sphere," he said without elaborating.

The news came as a shock in political circles, with senior opposition MPs saying they had no inkling Kinsley was planning to step down, and NDP whip Yvon Godan questioning whether there would be time for a successor to be prepared for a spring election.

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Tories Admit Donations Unreported

December 28, 2006 -- After months of heated denials, the federal Conservative party has quietly admitted it failed to publicly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations.

And the muddle over the disclosure meant that at least three party members - including Prime Minister Stephen Harper - donated more than the legal limit last year.

Last Thursday, the party filed a revised financial report for 2005 with Elections Canada, acknowledging that it did not report delegate fees collected for its national convention that year as donations, contrary to political financing laws.

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Wheat Board Limits Canada's Ability to Compete

January 10, 2007 -- A government-appointed task force recently recommended a plan to turn the Canadian Wheat Board into a farmer-owned grain marketing company and to allow Western Canadian growers to sell their wheat and barley to any domestic or foreign buyer. Currently, the CWB, which is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world, is by law the only organization in the Canadian grain industry allowed to trade in world markets.

As one of Canada's biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells to more than 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, minus marketing costs, to farmers. Many acknowledge that the CWB has played a significant role in the development of agriculture in Canada. However, Canada is missing out on global opportunities and is being subjected to unprecedented pressure to globalize. These conditions have led to uncertainty and a call for change in the ways the agrifood supply chain is managed and marketed.

The operation of the CWB in the agricultural commodity trade in the last decade has been a contentious issue for a number of reasons. First, the CWB, and Canadian agriculture in general, is primarily driven by politics. Domestically, various governments have been active in upholding the virtues and presumed efficiencies of marketing boards. Their argument was, in short, that such mechanisms represent the Canadian way of managing an economy. Current agricultural policies concerning the CWB have had considerable support from both Ottawa and the provincial governments, especially Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Thus, the CWB has become a symbol of the Canadian way of life; but it also has come to symbolize economic inertia and restraints to competition. 

Following the establishment of the CWB, Canadian governments have at times considered but ultimately refused to intervene directly in this sector of the economy, except by passing legislation that reinforces current policies. Consequently, most Canadian governments, apart from the current federal government, prefer the status quo, even as independent analysts advocate reform.

Second, the CWB's modus operandi has attracted the attention of many grain trading nations that have accused it of distorting trade flows. Except, recent rulings by independent bodies have affirmed the CWB's status as a fair trader. Since 1995, numerous rulings from the WTO have substantiated the long-standing claims of the government of Canada and pro-monopoly lobby groups that the CWB operates within WTO rules. Similarly, trade quarrels with U.S. interest groups since the North American Free Trade Agreement have been unanimously settled in Canada's favour. All 14 attempts to stop Canadian wheat from entering the U.S. market were unsuccessful.

These legal triumphs came with hidden costs. While wheat productivity and efficiency are increasing in many parts of the world, we have limited our own ability to compete. With emerging agricultural economies such as those of India, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina, the ranking of world wheat exporters and producers is undergoing a seismic shift. In India, for example, wheat production grew significantly in the last five years, and this quickly globalizing nation is now producing 12 per cent of the world's wheat. Just in the last three years, Russia and Ukraine replaced Canada and Australia as top five wheat exporting countries. Climate certainly had a significant impact on these rankings, but Canadian productivity was declining long before recent uncooperative weather patterns.

The CWB currently requires farmers to enter markets where price matters more than quality. And with global consumption of wheat projected to decline from last year's record low as a result of the shrinking market for animal feed, there will be more pressure to provide quality, differentiated products to world markets.

Canada is becoming less relevant to the global agenda. We are more isolated from other countries than ever before, as evinced by current trade talks at the WTO. Last year in Geneva, CWB President Adrian Measner, while defending single-desk marketing schemes, was quoted as saying that Canada was alone against the other 146 WTO members. Sooner or later, the long-awaited reforms to the CWB will need to be implemented no matter what Canada says about its existence. It is surprising that Canada still has marketing boards such as the CWB while many other advanced economies have dismantled theirs. By implementing vertical marketing approaches and savvy distribution models, many of these countries now have very efficient and productive agricultural industries. Our grain industry is anything but market-driven, and the CWB's monopoly has become an impediment to growth and prosperity.

Canada needs to implement freer market reforms in the agricultural sector, and the recent task force's recommendations are consistent with that vision.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is assistant professor (marketing) and Wolfgang Langenbacher is professor adjunct at the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Regina.

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Free our wheat farmers: Will the Harper government succeed in stripping the Wheat Board of its obsolete monopoly powers?

January 17, 2007 -- People who aren't acquainted with prairie agricultural politics may be baffled by recent events surrounding the Canadian Wheat Board. Why is the Harper government, overwhelmingly supported in rural western constituencies, bent on destroying an institution that many farmers seem to support and value? Why is the government ignoring the will of grain farmers, as apparently expressed in recent Wheat Board elections?  
 
In fact, the real disagreement is not so much between a united front of farmers and the Harper government, but rather between two broad groups of farmers separated by an ideological fault line. On one side are those prairie farmers who view the Wheat Board system as a source of emotional and economic security. On the other are those who doubt that the system delivers any economic benefit, and chafe at the restrictions imposed on them in the management of their businesses, not to mention the Board's arbitrary and autocratic practices. This split is of long standing and emotionally superheated. In many farming families, brother is pitted against brother, and father against son.  
 
The Canadian Wheat Board is a state trading enterprise. It has the exclusive, government-granted authority to buy wheat and barley grown in western Canada (but not elsewhere) for export and domestic human consumption. It is illegal for a prairie farmer to sell such grain to any other buyer; and it is illegal for a grain user to buy from any other source, including directly from growers. Western farmers do not even have the right to build grain processing facilities and supply them with their own grain without the Board's involvement.  
 
The price that growers receive is equal to the Board's proceeds from sales minus its expenses, pooled on an annual basis so that each farmer receives an identical return for the same product. The Board insists that it obtains premium prices. But in the absence of competition, comparisons are inexact. It is a fact, however, that better prices than the Board's are routinely offered by grain buyers just south of the Canada-U.S. border. But of course, Canadian farmers are prohibited from selling to them.  
 
In reality, the Board can sell at any price offered, no matter how low 
-- because its cost of goods sold (i.e., what it pays farmers) is adjusted automatically according to the formula described in the previous paragraph. In grain-trade circles, many believe that this ability to undercut any competitor at any time inevitably reduces prices for everybody and results in an unnecessary transfer of wealth from grain producers to grain consumers. And so the expressions of support the Wheat Board says it has received from customers can be construed as being motivated by a selfish desire to keep prices low.  
 
Moreover, it is impossible to argue in favour of the monopoly system without ignoring all the lessons of recent economic history. Unlike the Board, private grain companies would have to compete for farmers' grain by offering the highest buying prices. Then they would compete for buyers for their own grain-based products by offering the lowest selling prices. They would have to control their costs effectively and maximize their productivity. This is the way successful companies, and economies, work.  
 
Where do farmers line up on the issue? Upwards of 75% of Canadian grain is produced by a quarter of growers. These larger growers tend to be progressive, younger, better educated and more competent managers. Among this group, support for the Board's monopoly power is low. Rather, support for the Board is high among smaller, older operators, who are also the most vocal in expressing their point of view.  
 
In a nearly hysterical campaign to preserve the monopoly system, the Board has begun to contend that it is not a government agency and therefore not subject to government oversight. In fact, the Board recently launched a legal action in an attempt to establish that it is not bound to follow instructions from the responsible minister.  
 
The Canadian Wheat Board Act indeed exempts it from the provisions of the Financial Administration Act, a clause which has not been constitutionally tested. In every other imaginable respect, however, the Board is a government creation. The federal government owns its assets and is responsible for its liabilities. (In the past, the federal treasury has covered $1.5-billion in shortfalls arising from miscalculation and mismanagement.) The treasury also guarantees the Board's financial obligations, currently on the order of $6-billion. These guarantees secure repayment and allow the Board to borrow at the same rock-bottom interest rates as prime government securities carry.  
 
The Board's governance structure is based on a 15-member board of directors, five of whom are appointed by the federal cabinet, and 10 of whom are farmers elected by other farmers. This "farmer democracy" is a nice idea, but it isn't a particularly appropriate way to run the Board: Even highly successful farmers don't find their experiences particularly useful in guiding multi-billion-dollar commercial activity in the extremely specialized field of international commodity trading.  
 
A further problem is that election procedures are incoherent. Voting eligibility is conferred by a delivery permit, which is required in order to sell grain to the Board. But many farmers and farm units have multiple permits, and therefore multiple votes. There are no more than 20,000 commercial grain growers in western Canada, but the voter list runs to 85,000 names.  
 
The situation most closely resembles what would happen if every owner of a General Motors vehicle were entitled to vote in the election of General Motors directors, with shareholders obliged to accept the consequences and General Motors being the only legal manufacturer of vehicles. It least resembles conventional corporate governance, in which each share, not each holder, represents a vote.  
 
The Harper government understands the need for reform. Its intention is to remove the Board's monopoly authority, privatize the Board, and maintain it as a voluntary marketing agency. Those farmers who wish to patronize it could continue to do so, but they would be under no obligation.  
 
The Board, naturally, opposes this: No one likes to see their monopoly powers taken away. The Board's main argument is that it cannot compete with private actors in a voluntary environment -- and so it will sink without the monopoly. This must be the first case in history that pleading incompetence has been used to retain a privilege.  
 
In practice, the Board has (or should have) knowledge and expertise sufficient to give it a secure place in the value chain. Physical handling, storage and transportation of grain is not the only way to add value. The best interests of Western grain farmers would be served by new and creative ways of thinking in a global economy that responds well to innovation.  
 
It is interesting to note that, inasmuch as there is vocal support from some quarters for the Board's western wheat and barley monopoly, there has never been any movement to extend these monopoly principles to other spheres. There is no clamour, for instance, for extending the Board's authority to the rest of Canada. No one has proposed the creation of similar monopoly entities to market, say, iron ore, oil or natural gas. (There are similarities between the Wheat Board system and the marketing boards that control milk, egg and chicken production and marketing, but there are also major differences. And in any event, the existence of one obsolete monopoly does not justify another.)  
 
The Harper government, at some risk to itself, has sided with the class of farmers who want the same economic freedom that everyone else enjoys. Even the least skilled worker has the opportunity to locate the employer who offers the best wages and terms of employment, and to change employers at will. The corollary of the Wheat Board system in employment terms would be slavery.  
 
After openly and emphatically promising reform in the 2006 election, the government is now proceeding to take on the Board's monopoly. Unfortunately, making big changes will require legislation amending or repealing the Canadian Wheat Board Act. This is a politically inopportune time for such an action. The collectivist, central-planning philosophy that underlies the Board system is well-aligned with that of the NDP; and the other two opposition parties may also see an advantage in protecting the status quo.  
 
However things unfold, the abolition of the Wheat Board monopoly is a necessity. The western grain industry faces competitive challenges, including the rise of eastern Europe as a low-cost cereal producer. Free-market competition can do for the prairie grain economy what it has done in every instance in which it has been allowed to operate. The Harper government should stick to its plan.  
 
mwdorosh@allstream.net
   
 
- Morris Dorosh is publisher of Agriweek, a Winnipeg-based newsletter for the agribusiness community.

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Could this explain why CWB customers were so supportive of Adrian Measner and the monopoly?

January 15, 2007 -- The Harper government moved a step closer to ending the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly by firing Adrian Measner, who was openly fighting the government’s efforts to move the CWB in the direction of an open market system. In response to the firing, a number of CWB customers sent letters supporting Mr. Measner.

Mr. Kacem Mohammed, the Director General of the OAIC (the Algerian state trading organization involved in wheat & durum production, handling and imports) recently told an Algerian newspaper that the CWB provides the Algerian office with a series of guarantees and benefits that are not to be found anywhere else. He said that CWB selling prices in Algeria were very low, since their country benefits from preferential prices. He continued to say that the preferential prices save Algeria several tens of dollars per tonne purchased and no other country gave them such benefits. Below is a picture from the Canadian Grain Commission Website showing three senior officials including Kacem Mohammed visiting Canada. The OAIC has been importing Canadian wheat since the 1970s.

The Canadian Wheat Board has been doing a great deal of self promotion lately and they insist that they return premium prices to their farmers. If this claim is true, why would the director general of the OAIC make the comments that he has made? Captive Canadian producers would not be amused to know that they have bought their market share in Algeria at a cost of tens of dollars per tonne. Has the market share of other countries been bought at the same cost?

Canadian Grains Commission Website


Left to right: Dekar Badredine, Director of Regulation and Distribution, OAIC; Chris Hamblin, Chief Commissioner, CGC; Kacem Mohammed, Director General, OAIC; Haneg El bey, Director of Regional Services Centre, OAIC; Albert Schatzke, Commissioner, CGC.
Photo © Canadian Grains Commission

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Minister Strahl Announces Vote on the Marketing of Barley to Start on January 31

January 12, 2007 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, announced the date today of the plebiscite on the marketing of barley. The voting period will commence with the mailing of ballots on January 31 and the last day for return ballots to be postmarked will be March 6. Results of the plebiscite will be announced in mid-March. The company chosen to run the plebiscite is the international accounting firm KPMG LLP, which was selected through a competitive process.

"Canada's New Government has made it clear that we would consult with farmers and stakeholders. With this plebiscite, we're delivering on that commitment," said Minister Strahl. "We are providing Western Canadian barley growers with the opportunity to make their own decisions about how they market their grain, whether through the Canadian Wheat Board or through other outlets."

All four provinces in the CWB designated region - Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia - have agreed to provide KPMG with their Production Insurance information identifying producers who insured barley in the years 2002 to 2006, which will help to expedite the process of assembling the list of eligible voters. Minister Strahl thanked the provinces for their assistance in developing the list. The federal government is also providing KPMG with a list of producers reporting barley to the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program to assist in developing the voters list.

Canada's New Government is committed to moving forward in providing marketing choice to western grain farmers, allowing them to maximize their returns, while continuing to preserve a strong Canadian Wheat Board.

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CWB Employees get $1,000 bonus

Winnipeg Free Press
Fri 22 Dec 2006
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Paul Samyn

December 22, 2006 -- The Canadian Wheat Board is handing out $1,000 Christmas bonuses to its 500 employees in recognition of the "stress" and "strain" they have been under during the Winnipeg-based agency's fight with the Harper government. CWB employees who are wondering whether it is "hush money" designed to buy their silence in what has become a pitched political battle over the future of the world's largest marketer of wheat.

The special payout was announced to staff Thursday morning by board chairman Ken Ritter and newly minted president Greg Arason, who was appointed to the position Tuesday by Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl.

However, the bonus is not only raising concern among farmers, but also among

"The whole thing was really quite surreal," one employee said of the announcement in the cafeteria of the wheat board's Winnipeg offices. "One moment we are locked in a battle with the government, and 24 hours after our very popular president (Adrian Measner) is fired, we are told we are getting $1,000 bonuses. Is this hush money? Am I supposed to abide by a new president's rules, which are contrary to what this company has always been about?"

The payout was authorized by the CWB's directors during their first meeting with Arason Wednesday. It had the blessing of directors who have been advocating for the retention of its marketing monopoly.

"We have had a tremendous strain on our staff, as it is had to work in an organization that has been on the front pages of newspapers," said Ian McCreary, a director from Saskatchewan.

"It is a token of the board and farmers' appreciation for working in an environment that has been attacked by the government of Canada."

Bill Toews, a director from Manitoba, said the optics of the bonus and how farmers might view it were all factored into the board's decision.

"The rationale was the staff have undergone a lot of stress and worked under very difficult conditions that have been imposed on them by what Mr. Strahl has done,' Toews said.

"If farmers are concerned about what we did (authorizing the bonuses), they will have to place that responsibility on Mr. Strahl, not the board."

While any number of private and public sector companies provide Christmas bonuses for employees, that has not been the tradition previously at the CWB.

The payouts come as Arason, Strahl's pick to head the CWB as interim president and CEO, is running up against a board controlled by directors opposed to the Tory promise to move to open marketing of wheat and barley. Strahl sacked Measner for refusing to toe the Tory line on open marketing.

Mike Bast, chairman of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, which backs the Tory vision for the CWB, was shocked by the bonuses.

"I think farmers would find this very upsetting right now," Bast said.

"If you are going to pay the employees a $1,000 bonus, why aren't farmers paid a $1,000 Christmas bonus cheque as well?"

Bast said if the CWB was really an organization that represented Prairie producers, it would have done a quick survey of farmers to ask them if they agreed employees deserved the $1,000 bonus.

Strahl's office wouldn't comment directly on the bonuses, saying it stays out of the day-to-day running of the board.

But Conrad Bellehumeur, Strahl's director of communications, categorically rejected any claim that the government has been the source of stress and strain at the CWB.

"The reasons they (the CWB) have been on the front page of the papers is that they have decided to involve themselves in the politics of wheat instead of focusing on the mandate, which is to market wheat," he said.

The CWB employee who asked not to be named said he wouldn't be surprised if some staff refused to accept the Christmas bonus.

"The optics are just atrocious for us," he said.

"What are farmers going to think of this? Because at the end of the day, it is their money."

paul.samyn@freepress.mb.ca 

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The Grinch from Billings

December 29, 2006 -- While you were enjoying the holidays, R-CALF presented everyone with its warped idea of a Christmas present. It filed its brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the day after Christmas. Its goal? Getting the Canadian border closed, jeopardizing exports and attacking consumer confidence - - again.

The 47-page brief lists every legal or federal rulemaking technicality R-CALF's lawyers could conjure up as one part of a strategy to reopen the case. The other part is to convince the court that the BSE issue is so highly technical and complex and there is so much new science since the original 2005 Billings District Court hearing, that the court just has to examine this new information. Not to mention the 12,000 pages of Administrative Record the Ninth didn't consider in its original decision.

R-CALF's goal is to get the case reopened in either the Eighth District Court in Billings or the Ninth Appeals, resulting in overturning USDA's Final Rule and closing the border.

As for not being allowed to present all the science, R-CALF could not even fill its original 34- page injunction brief with scientific fact. The document was replete with speculation, unfounded extrapolation and unproven, un- replicated scientific theory. If time has proven anything, it is that some of the far-out theories about BSE transmission routes, like saliva, would have produced thousands of BSE cases by now if they were factual. Instead, experience has confirmed science. 

As for new relevant science, the deciding facts haven't changed. Cattle under 30-months of age don't carry BSE-infective material. Canada is not an exploding minefield of BSE-infected cattle. BSE is spread through feed containing BSE infective material and feed bans of ruminant material fed to ruminants break that link. BSE surveillance programs monitor the prevalence of BSE in cow herds and have nothing to do with human food safety. SRM removal protects humans from the already infinitesimal chance of infection. There is nothing that would overturn the world's nearly 20-year body of fact.

While R-CALF is desperately trying to convince the court there is compelling new data - after the fact - it conveniently neglects to mention other "new information." Its supposed primary reason for the case is null and void. It had proclaimed its goal to be to prevent the introduction of BSE into the U.S. herd. Time has proven we already had it.

If the facts haven't changed and R-CALF is reduced to parading technicalities to resurrect the case, why is R-CALF so intent on flogging this dead horse?

There are several apparent reasons. For one, they hate foreign imports and will go to any lengths to stop them. For another, they care little for export markets and could care less if mishandling import trade jeopardizes exports. 

They feel the domestic market is more than enough challenge for them to handle. Our market is demanding, shifting and competitive. Their railing against most of the free market system's attempts to innovate and adapt prove they feel overwhelmed and perhaps inadequate to cope with those changes. They see no harm in foregoing billions in export value, because they cannot comprehend how such money trickles back to cow/calf operators. If they can't see it short-term, it follows they can't see how limiting the American beef industry to four percent of the world's consumers is long-term suicide. How could they think eliminating 96 percent of their market would lead to profitability?"

There may be some technicalities the Ninth could use to reopen, if looking for excuses. R-CALF's attorneys have painstakingly hunted down cases that supposedly provide precedents for either court to re- open.

The Ninth's 54-page opinion was thorough, with an accurate grasp of the science the last time. Since science hasn't changed, we hope the Ninth lets sleeping dogs lie and keeps closed one of the more ignominious chapters in industry history.

It is possible that R-CALF and a misled, different and sympathetic court panel could conjure up flaming headlines of a "cover-up." After all, this is the San Francisco-based Ninth. Sensational headlines could induce unjustified and unreasoned panic in a public already sensitized by recent E. coli food problems. Global customers, jittery and looking for excuses, could react. Consumer confidence - always a fragile thing - is at risk.

Knowing that risk, R-CALF has answered, "Let's go for it!"

Agribusiness Freedom Foundation

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Irish farmers jailed in BSE fraud case

December 27, 2006 -- Two Irish farmers have been sentenced to three years in jail after a lengthy trial during which it was alleged that the two smuggled an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy into their herd to gain compensation for the entire herd.

The father-and-son team, Thomas Hickey and son Jeremiah Hickey, placed an infected animal into the herd of a third party in 1996, intending that the entire herd would be destroyed by the government and compensation of over $100,000 paid.

The two will begin serving their sentences Jan. 2.

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CWB employees to get $1,000 bonus

Wheat board handing out cash to recognize 'stress'

December 22, 2006 -- The Canadian Wheat Board is handing out $1,000 Christmas bonuses to its 500 employees in recognition of the "stress" and "strain" they have been under during the Winnipeg-based agency's fight with the Harper government.

The special payout was announced to staff Thursday morning by board chairman Ken Ritter and newly minted president Greg Arason, who was appointed to the position Tuesday by Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl.

However, the bonus is not only raising concern among farmers, but also among CWB employees who are wondering whether it is "hush money" designed to buy their silence in what has become a pitched political battle over the future of the world's largest marketer of wheat.

"The whole thing was really quite surreal," one employee said of the announcement in the cafeteria of the wheat board's Winnipeg offices. "One moment we are locked in a battle with the government, and 24 hours after our very popular president (Adrian Measner) is fired, we are told we are getting $1,000 bonuses. Is this hush money? Am I supposed to abide by a new president's rules, which are contrary to what this company has always been about?"

The payout was authorized by the CWB's directors during their first meeting with Arason Wednesday. It had the blessing of directors who have been advocating for the retention of its marketing monopoly.

"We have had a tremendous strain on our staff, as it is had to work in an organization that has been on the front pages of newspapers," said Ian McCreary, a director from Saskatchewan.
"It is a token of the board and farmers' appreciation for working in an environment that has been attacked by the government of Canada."

Bill Toews, a director from Manitoba, said the optics of the bonus and how farmers might view it were all factored into the board's decision.

"The rationale was the staff have undergone a lot of stress and worked under very difficult conditions that have been imposed on them by what Mr. Strahl has done,'' Toews said.

"If farmers are concerned about what we did (authorizing the bonuses), they will have to place that responsibility on Mr. Strahl, not the board."

While any number of private and public sector companies provide Christmas bonuses for employees, that has not been the tradition previously at the CWB.

The payouts come as Arason, Strahl's pick to head the CWB as interim president and CEO, is running up against a board controlled by directors opposed to the Tory promise to move to open marketing of wheat and barley. Strahl sacked Measner for refusing to toe the Tory line on open marketing.

Mike Bast, chairman of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, which backs the Tory vision for the CWB, was shocked by the bonuses.

"I think farmers would find this very upsetting right now," Bast said. "If you are going to pay the employees a $1,000 bonus, why aren't farmers paid a $1,000 Christmas bonus cheque as well?"

Bast said if the CWB was really an organization that represented Prairie producers, it would have done a quick survey of farmers to ask them if they agreed employees deserved the $1,000 bonus.

Strahl's office wouldn't comment directly on the bonuses, saying it stays out of the day-to-day running of the board.

But Conrad Bellehumeur, Strahl's director of communications, categorically rejected any claim that the government has been the source of stress and strain at the CWB.

"The reasons they (the CWB) have been on the front page of the papers is that they have decided to involve themselves in the politics of wheat instead of focusing on the mandate, which is to market wheat," he said.

The CWB employee who asked not to be named said he wouldn't be surprised if some staff refused to accept the Christmas bonus.

"The optics are just atrocious for us," he said.

"What are farmers going to think of this? Because at the end of the day, it is their money."

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Minister Strahl Announces Appointment of New President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Wheat Board

December 19, 2006 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced the appointment of Greg Arason as interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Mr. Arason will serve for a three-month transition period until a new President can be selected.

"Since Mr. Arason was the Wheat Board's President for four years and has an enormous amount of experience as an executive in the grain industry, I am confident he will provide the leadership required during this transition phase," said Minister Strahl. "I am pleased he has accepted this interim appointment, as it will allow us sufficient time to make sure we find the right person to do the job on a permanent basis."

Mr. Arason was President and CEO of the CWB between 1998 and 2002 and prior to that was CEO of Manitoba Pool Elevators. He has served as a director of a number of agri-business companies and industry associations including CanAmera Foods, Can-Oat Milling, The Chamber of Maritime Commerce, Canada Grains Council, Prince Rupert Grain, Westco Fertilizers, Western Grain Elevator Association, and XCAN Grain.

"Canada's New Government is committed to providing Prairie grain producers with marketing choice - the same choices other farmers across the country have to market their products," said Minister Strahl. "We are also committed to maintaining a strong Wheat Board, to ensure that producers who want to continue to sell through the Board will have that option."

Minister Strahl will give an opportunity for farmers to express their opinion on the marketing of barley with a plebiscite early in the new year.

For information on the new government's path towards marketing choice, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/cwb.

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Strahl Fires President of Canadian Wheat Board

December 19, 2006 --  Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl has moved on an opponent of his plans to end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.

He fired Adrian Measner, the board's president and a 34-year veteran of the organization, on Tuesday.

"It's time for the wheat board to make a buck for Canadian farmers and to quit fiddling around in the political game," Strahl said.

The minister made his announcement at a staged rally west of Winnipeg. Farmers who oppose the wheat board's current monopoly on international wheat and barley sales surrounded him.

Greg Arason, a former wheat board president, is the interim president. Arason supports the government's plan to end the board's monopoly.

"This issue is probably bigger than the Canadian Wheat Board, when you step back and look at it. And if you aren't free to speak out, what kind of country do we have?" Measner told CTV Winnipeg.

He described Strahl's criticism as unfair, saying he only spoke out on the issue of allowing farmers a plebiscite on the board's future.

Strahl has promised a non-binding plebiscite on barley this winter, but hasn't committed yet to a similar vote for wheat.

The minister told Measner in a terse letter in late November that he was considering firing him.

In Measner's response obtained by CTV Winnipeg, the now-former president wrote: "while your staff made public comments that I might 'save' my job if I support your party's policy, it is not possible for me to do so. ...

"The board's single desk system of marketing puts farmers, as a whole, in a much more positive economic situation than if they were competing against each other in a multiple selling environment."

To execute the government's vision, Measner said he would have to "work against the farmer-elected board of directors, and this is something I will not do."

The Conservatives' plan
The Conservative government wants to end the board's monopoly over the sale of western wheat and barley -- a promise made in their 2006 election platform. Their plan would allow farmers to sell either to the board or independently.

Critics of the plan say ending the board's monopoly would effectively cripple the organization and result in lower prices for most farmers.

Federally, the NDP and Liberals both support the board. Measner stood beside Stephane Dion when the new Liberal leader promised to restore the board's monopoly if elected.

The NDP provincial governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba support the status quo.

Alberta's Conservative government would like to see changes. Groups like the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and Western Canadian Barley Growers associations have always supported ending the board's monopoly.

In recent board elections, the ratio of board members favouring the status quo versus those who want to end the monopoly was maintained.

"You either have single-desk selling or you have don't have a CWB and they have presented no evidence that would counter that contention," said Mark Wartman, Saskatchewan's agriculture minister, in the vote's wake.

"Clearly, the majority of farmers are not buying that nonsense about dual-marketing."

Strahl begged to differ.

"Other people would counter that in the federal election, 85 per cent of the MPs elected in wheat board country were Conservative,'' he said on Dec. 11. "And Conservatives campaigned openly and aggressively on moving to marketing choice.

"People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, but the input that's going to be most valuable as far as changes to the board goes is going to be the plebiscite."

Strahl came under fire earlier this fall for striking the names of some farmers off the voting list for such a plebiscite.

The board was established by the federal government in 1935 to help give prairie farmers more marketing clout. An elected 15-member board administers it on behalf of more than 85,000 farmers.

The CWB is the world's largest wheat and barley marketer, controlling more than 20 per cent of the global market.

The board sells grain to more than 70 countries and returns all sales revenue to farmers, less marketing costs. The board's defenders say the monopoly is needed so the board can be assured of supply when marketing.

However, proponents of change say that in an era in which market pricing information is instantly available via the Internet, farmers could earn better returns by marketing their own grain.

Measner said the uncertainty is already starting to hurt the board.

"Customers are trying to understand what's going on. They have a high respect for the organization, they appreciate the service and quality they get from Canada, and they are  trying to understand why is there (internal) pressure."

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Ministerial Statement on Marketing Choice

December 14, 2006 -– The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today issued the following statement after the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) published comments made by some of its customers.

"The news release by the CWB issued on December 12 entitled Canada's international grain customers express concerns over government approach to CWB is designed to spread unnecessary fear and worry concerning Canada’s New Government’s intention to provide Western Canadian farmers with a choice in how they market their wheat and barley.

"Canada’s grain industry is open for business and that is the positive message that our customers overseas need to hear loud and clear. They don’t need to hear some of the doomsday scenarios that have been coming from some quarters.

"Canadian farmers are as ready and able as they always are to deliver an ongoing supply of good-quality grain, on time and on specification.

"The government wants to see the CWB continue as a competitive and viable organization under marketing choice. This will not change the quality of Canadian wheat, and may well allow Canadian exporters to better meet the specific needs of its importing customers.

"We are moving towards marketing choice in a steady and transparent manner. We have decided to start with barley and are consulting with producers through a plebiscite to be held early in the new year.

"There will be adjustment, but the government is committed to a carefully managed transition. I hope the CWB can work with us, so that when it is done, the sector will be stronger, with better opportunities for profit for farmers."

For information on the new government’s path towards marketing choice, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/cwb.

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The Face of the Canadian Wheat Board

Click here for election results by District (pdf)

District 1: Henry Vos from Fairview, AB

Henry farms 3,000 acres near Fairview. He is the owner/operator of Peace Pedigreed Seed and manager of Three Links Agresearch Inc. He was a founding director of Canterra Seeds, governor of Winnipeg Commodity Exchange, director and past president of Alberta Canola Producers Assoc./Commission, past president of Alberta Branch of Canadian Seed Growers Assoc., director of Alberta Agricultural Research Institute, and committee member of Agriculture and Food Council. He has been active in the community as a municipal councilor for 3 years, Board of Governors for Fairview College for 6 years and 4-H supporter for many years.

District 2: James Chatenay from Red Deer, AB

James was born and raised in Alberta. After graduating from Olds Agricultural College, he returned to the family farm near Penhold, AB that he continues to operate today. James participated in the first Charolais importation from France in 1965. He also acted as a French-language interpreter in France and Canada, served six years as Director of the Alberta Charolais Association and judged several Charolais shows.

District 3: Larry Hill from Swift Current, SK

Larry farms 5,200 acres near Swift Current. He obtained a degree in Agricultural Engineering (1965) and a Farm Business Management Certificate in Agriculture (1998) from the University of Saskatchewan. Previous experience includes working for Saskatchewan Agriculture and serving as a director on credit union and regional college boards.

District 4: Ken Ritter from Kindersley, SK

Ken operates a family farm in the Major-Superb area of West Central Saskatchewan. As well as farming, Ken has practiced law and taught school in Canada and Australia. He has served as a Commissioner with the National Transportation Agency of Canada, and chaired the Saskatchewan Surface Rights Arbitration Board.

District 5: Allen Oberg from Forestburg, AB

Allen and his brother, John, run a grain and cattle operation near Forestburg, Alberta. He began working for Alberta Wheat Pool in 1976 before starting to farm full-time in 1980, but continued his association with the Alberta Wheat pool as a delegate in 1986. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1990, and remained on the board until the Agricore-United Grain Growers merger in 2001. For the past two years, he has served on the federal Minister's Advisory Committee on Co-operatives.

District 6: Ian McCreary from Bladworth, SK

Ian was born and raised on a mixed farm near Bladworth, SK, which he runs today. Ian has Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Agricultural Economics from the University of Saskatchewan, and worked as a marketing manager and policy analyst with the CWB.

District 7: Kyle Korneychuk from Pelly, SK

Kyle Korneychuk is 47 years of age and has been farming since the age of 17, starting with his grandparents’ home quarter. His grandparents instilled the virtues of honesty, farmer control, integrity and the love of farming in him. He and his wife, Susan, now farm 4200 acres. Their crops include wheat, barley, flax, oats, canola, peas, alfalfa, and borage. They have two children aged 16 and 14.

District 8: Rod Flaman from Edenwold, SK

Rod farms with his wife Jeanne just south of the Qu'Appelle Valley near Edenwold, Saskatchewan. They produce a variety of field and horticultural crops, including certified organic grain. Educated at the University of Saskatchewan, Rod has served as a director at Terminal 22 at Balcarres, Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association.

District 9: Bill Nicholson from Shoal Lake, MB

Bill and his family farm 4,300 acres at Shoal Lake, MB producing cereals, oilseeds and pulse crops. Bill has a degree in agricultural engineering and has worked in the farm machinery industry. He has served on the Advisory Committee to the CWB, been a Manitoba Pool delegate, represented farmers on the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute Council, and is president of the local credit union board.

District 10: Bill Toews from Kane, MB

Bill and his wife Barbara operate Harambee Farms, a grain and special crops farm at Kane, Manitoba. Bill is actively involved in the industry serving as director of Keystone Agriculture Producers, a member of the wheat, rye and triticale sub-committee of the Prairie Region Recommending Committee for Grains and as chair of the wheat technical advisory committee and immediate past vice-chair of the Western Grain Research Foundation. Bill has a degree in Agriculture and a post-graduate degree in soil science.

We congratulate all the farmers who voted, and took the time to mail those ballots in.  This election saw the largest number of returned ballots.  Good work to all the candidates and thank you for running in this election.  The work, effort and time donated to a campaign is enormous, and we thank you for all your dedication.

Art Macklin - we thank you for your work and the time that you have given as a director of the CWB.

Dwayne Anderson - for your time and efforts during your term with the CWB we are thankful.  This industry benefited and will miss your knowledge at the CWB level.

Congratulations to all the CWB directors that will be starting new terms, and good luck to all CWB elected and appointed directors.  Thank you for your commitment.

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Wheat board rules deny rights

Red Deer Advocate --  It was interesting to see Stephane Dion stand up for some Western farmers in Parliament on Wednesday.

If the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on grain sales is so great, why would he not try extending it to Quebec?  If democratic rights are so important, why not create a plebiscite asking Eastern farmers if they want to lose the ability to sell their grain where and when they choose?

Dion won't do that because the answers are self-evident.  Farmers outside the Prairies are happy being able to sell the wheat and barley they produce on their own land, with their own labour and capital equipment, where and when they choose, at the best price they can negotiate.

That's all some farmers on the Prairies are asking.  The Conservative government of Stephen Harper pledged during the election campaign last winter to help them achieve that goal.

Federal Agriculture Minister chuck Strahl is trying to make it happen, against opposition from inside and outside the wheat board.

The opposition is being led by board chair Adrian Measner, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dion on Parliament Hill this week.  Measner staunchly opposes the government's plan and has been given his walking papers by Strahl.

The minister is not seeking to dismantle the wheat board.  He wants to give Prairie wheat and barley farmers the ability to opt in or opt out.

Strahl plans to start with barley, and has initiated a plebiscite to let growers on the Prairies have their say.  That's a strategic move by Strahl, but it may tbe too cute by half.

Removing barley from the wheat board's single-selling desk is easier than wheat.  Barley is the dominant crop in Alberta and farmers here favour free markets more than Prairie farms to the east of us.

Problems with the referendum are two-fold.  It sets a precedent for a similar plebiscite on wheat, which would probably lose, given strong support for the board in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where most of the wheat is grown.  More fundamentally, this should not be an issue where the majority rules.

Allowing a majority to deny what should be rights to a minority is not democracy, it's the tyranny of the majority.

It was wrong when the majority of Canadian voters - all men - denied women the right to vote.

It was wrong when black and aboriginal Americans were allowed - with strong, majority support - to be bought and sold as slaves.

Denying a right to Prairie farmers is not as egregious as those two examples, but the principle is the same.

Just because something is legal does not make it right or fair.

And just because something is novel does not make it wrong.

The wheat board has changed in the past.  Prairie oats was removed from its monopoly jurisdiction when the law was changed in 1989 with scant discernable negative effects.

When it was first founded, the wheat board was a voluntary agency.

There's no compelling reason why it cannot and should not be so again.

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Barley single desk marketing system abolished in SA

December 5, 2006 --  After 10 years of operation, South Australia's single desk marketing system for barley will be abolished.

Despite a majority of South Australian growers supporting a single desk in a open ballot conducted earlier this year, the decision has been overturned.

Barley marketing will be overseen by an independent authority known as the Essential Services Commission over the next three years.

After that, the market will be completely deregulated.

This has been the result of a four month review, pushed by the State Government which has been denied national competition payments of up to $9 million in the last three years due to lack of competition.

The measures will take effect from July 1 next year.

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CWB Misspends Farmer's Money

December 5, 2006 -- The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association strongly objects to the court action launched yesterday by the Canadian Wheat Board in which it is attempting to overturn a government directive.  On October 5, the federal government  issued an order instructing the CWB to stop spending money to promote its monopoly.

"This institution is betraying the trust of farmers," says Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, President of the Wheat Growers.  "It is once again spending our money to score political points rather than concentrating on getting the best price for our grain."

The Wheat Growers note the CWB's court application will do absolutely nothing to increase the sale of grain or improve returns to farmers.  The legal costs incurred will be paid by captive farmers.  Moreover, a ruling in favour of the CWB would give it license to spend even more money on self-promotion, rather than dedicating its resources to maximizing returns to farmers. 

"The CWB is now misspending farmers' money in an effort to gain the right to misspend even more of our money," says Jolly-Nagel.  "What does it hope to accomplish?  Even if the CWB wins, farmers lose."    

As a monopoly seller, the CWB has a duty to ensure it only incurs costs that relate to the selling of grain.  The CWB itself seems to recognize this role by claiming at the bottom of every one of its press releases that it returns "all" sales revenue, less marketing costs to Prairie farmers.  The Wheat Growers note, however, that to finance this legal action, the CWB will either have to dip into the CWB pool accounts or draw funds from forward pricing programs.  In either case, this is money that would otherwise go to farmers. 

"The CWB directors should not be using our money as their own personal slush fund," says Jolly-Nagel.  "If certain directors want to engage in political theatre then they should spend their own nickel and stop reaching into the pockets of other farmers." 

The Wheat Growers argue that the potential for misuse of farmers' money is one of the key reasons prairie farmers need marketing choice.  Under a marketing choice environment, individual farmers would no longer be captive to the monopoly and would not be forced to fund political views they do not support.    

The Wheat Growers note the CWB is claiming the government directive infringes on the CWB's freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.   The Wheat Growers maintain that such an argument might hold some weight IF farmers were free to disassociate themselves from the CWB.  However, until farmers gain marketing choice, they have no such freedom. 

"What the CWB fails to recognize is that spending my money to advocate a position I disagree with violates my freedom of expression," says Jolly-Nagel.  "Individuals should be free to express their opinion, but an institution that holds Canadian citizens captive should not.  That said, the CWB should be free to express its views as soon as farmers are free to take our business elsewhere."

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Statement from the CWB for retention of Measner

December 1, 2006 -- We, the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), have today forwarded a resolution to the Hon. Chuck Strahl, Minister responsible for the CWB, expressing our support for the retention of our President and CEO, Adrian Measner.

We have asked that the Minister reconsider his actions in beginning a process on November 29, 2006 to terminate the appointment of Mr. Measner as President of this organization. We have asked that the Minister have consultations with the board before Mr. Measner's appointment is terminated, as this would put the CWB at risk during this critical time in its history and potentially jeopardize the ability of the board to be held to account by western Canadian farmers.

The resolution was passed at a special teleconference meeting this morning. Elements of the resolution include the following:

  1. That the board of directors has complete confidence in the abilities of Mr. Measner to fulfill his accountability to the board for the implementation of the approved strategic direction and the effective conduct of operations, as evidenced by its unanimous recommendation to reappoint him to the position in November, 2005;
     

  2. That the potential termination of Mr. Measner would put the Canadian Wheat Board at significant risk, particularly during this critical time in the CWB's history, and potentially jeopardizes the ability of the board to be held to account by western Canadian farmers;
     

  3. That the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board supports the retention of Mr. Measner and will communicate its concern to the regarding the pending rescission.
     

  4. That the board of directors recommend that the Minister reconsider this action in consultation with the board. 

In the letter to the Minister, we have emphasized Mr. Measner's importance and value to this organization and the farmers it serves. The letter, signed by board chair Ken Ritter, includes the following extract:

"With over 30 years experience in the international grain business, Mr. Measner is a career CWB employee who has served the organization well, particularly in the capacity of President since December 2002. Mr. Measner's original appointment was made on the recommendation of the board, after a thorough and comprehensive search process, which included the expertise and advice of a professional executive search firm.

During his period of leadership as President of the CWB, Mr. Measner has consistently demonstrated his ability to manage the business effectively and bring sound judgment to bear on many difficult issues. In addition, his advice and guidance to the board has proved invaluable in assisting it in fulfilling its role and responsibilities to western Canadian farmers. Both the CWB's foreign and domestic customers have come to highly respect Mr. Measner, and his strong leadership has built fruitful relationships in both these sectors.

An effective relationship between a board of directors and its CEO is critical to organizational performance and success. Such a relationship has been established at the CWB, and the board relies heavily on Mr. Measner's management strengths, particularly during this challenging time in the CWB's history. To terminate Mr. Measner at this time would pose undue risk to the CWB, as strong leadership is needed to guide the CWB through a period of change and evolution. Farmers need to be assured that their interests continue to be protected, and it is the board's firm view that Mr. Measner will provide both continuity and stability."

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Ottawa threatens to fire wheat board CEO

By Larry Kusch and Paul Samyn

November 30, 2006 -- The Harper government has told Canadian Wheat Board president and CEO Adrian Measner that he will be fired unless he assures Ottawa he will support marketing choice for wheat and barley farmers.

Deanna Allen, a wheat board vice president, said Measner, who has been with the CWB since 1974, received a fax from Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl on Wednesday, indicating that he may be terminated.

Strahl wrote Measner that he had until Dec. 14 to "provide any comments for consideration by me and the Governor-in Council." 

Allen said the wording of the letter was nearly identical to a letter sent to former Saskatchewan CWB director Ross Keith recently before he was fired.

"We believe that this is simply pro forma and that following his response by the deadline of the 14th that it will be a matter of hours or days when he will receive notice that he will be terminated." 

However, a government spokesman said Thursday the firing is not a done deal, indicating that Measner could save his job if he were to change his position on the need to maintain the wheat board's sales monopoly.  

"We're not going to speculate on what he's going to say," the official said, referring to Measner. "We have given him ample opportunity to demonstrate support for marketing choice. We want our appointees to actively support that position." 

Measner has been a strong opponent of the government's goal of ending the wheat board's monopoly over wheat and barley sales.

Allen said that Measner was to address wheat board staff Thursday afternoon, adding that he would not be making a public statement that day.

"He's fairly upset and wants to concentrate on talking to staff first," she said.

Allen said that in a conversation with a member of Strahl's staff, she was told that Measner had effectively been given two weeks' notice.

The official said the government already had a short list of candidates to replace Measner, one of five government appointees on the CWB's 15-member board of directors.

Elections by mail are now proceeding in five of 10 wheat board districts.
Farmers must postmark their ballots by Friday to have them count.

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New Director appointed to the CWB

November 29, 2006 - Airdrie, AB.:  The appointment of Glen Findlay, of Manitoba, as one of the five appointed directors on the board of the CWB is an excellent choice by The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.  

"Mr. Findlay brings a wealth of experience, from his educational background, farming experiences and his lengthy role in Manitoba provincial politics" comments Jeff Nielsen, President of the Western Barley Growers Association.  Mr. Findlay, with almost 40 years in politics, has served as Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1986 to 1999. For over 10 years he served in the Manitoba Cabinet, first as Minister of Agriculture and then as Minister of Highways and Transportation.    

Nielsen continues, "The addition of Mr. Findlay, as a director for the CWB, brings an incredible amount of experience; experience that is well rounded and knowledge that will benefit the current board greatly" says Nielsen.   "Minister Strahl has appointed three strong individuals, whose impeccable backgrounds and credentials, will help lead the CWB into a new era where the CWB will transform into a marketing agency of choice for western Canada's barley and wheat producers".

"The WBGA fully supports Minister Strahl and our government for there commitment to providing choice marketing options to producers. WBGA believes the changes proposed to the CWB will create a new entity that will provide value and choice to producers" concludes Nielsen.

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Strahl must closely watch and monitor CWB spending of producer pool monies

November 28, 2006 -- The Honourable Chuck Strahl Minister of Agriculture and the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, issued restrictions on the CWB's spending October 5th through a Ministerial Order, enforcing a clause in the CWB Act (Section 18). WBGA welcomed this move, as previous governments let the CWB run rampant, spending producers' pool account money on various lobbying subjects and most notably the protection and retention of the monopoly. 

"Our government and our Minister have made it clear those western Canadian producers of wheat and barley will finally get true choice as to how they market their grains" says Jeff Nielsen, President of the Western Barley Growers Association.  Nielsen continues, "By issuing this order it has brought to light the countless dollars the CWB has taken away from producers, dollars that came out of producer pool accounts, dollars that farmers need". 

"The CWB's mandate is clearly stated within the CWB Act, and that is to sell all grain producers offer it, and return all funds less marketing and administration costs back to producers.  Accountability back to the producers is warranted; therefore the WBGA encourages the Minister to monitor closely all expenditures by the CWB. Only marketing and administration expenses, directly associated with grain marketing can be charged to farmers pool accounts. All other costs are to be paid by monies provided by parliament" says Doug McBain, Past President of the WBGA.

"We continue to see the CWB balk at following the Ministerial Order" says Tom Hewson, WBGA Vice President.  "Most recent evidence is the CWB refusing to remove articles from their website, which the Minister himself formally requested removed. By seeking legal advice, those fees no doubt paid out of producers' pool accounts, the CWB continues to challenge the authority of the Minister." concludes Hewson.

"The WBGA also encourages our government to make sure an amendment is made to their Accountability Act Bill, one that includes the CWB, as it is essential that western Canadian farmers get the right to see how pool account money is spent" continues Nielsen. "This will also allow producers to see how much they have lost from their pool accounts, monies that should have been fully paid back."

The WBGA fully supports Minister Strahl and his statement - "The CWB reports to Parliament through me, and should not be attempting to undermine this government's policy objectives." 

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Task Force Report Released

The task force was established by Minister Strahl on September 19, 2006 to recommend options on the way forward in implementing marketing choice for western wheat and barley producers. In its report to the Minister, the task force makes a number of recommendations on how best to proceed with a transition from single desk selling through the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) to an environment where farmers may sell their wheat or barley to any buyer, including a transformed Wheat Board (CWB II).  See below for the entire report.

Task Force Report:  "Marketing Choice, The Way Forward" (.pdf).  
October 30, 2006

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CWB Director Elections

This year, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) director elections, CWB districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 will vote.

We encourage all eligible voters to make sure their voice is heard. To do this:

  1. Watch for a ballot in early November
  2. Learn about the candidates (biographies will be in all voters’ packages)
  3. If necessary, check to see if you are on the voters list (Phone 1-800-446-0890)
  4. If you are eligible, but have not received a voters’ package, complete and file a statutory declaration
  5. Mail in the ballot

Anyone who has delivered grain to the CWB in 2005/06 or 2006/07 is automatically on the voters’ list. However, eligible voters are not limited to only those who deliver to the CWB. Any producer (from odd numbered districts) of wheat, barley, canola, oats, flaxseed, rapeseed or rye may vote, regardless of how they use or market their crop.

Those who are not automatically on the voters’ list but wish to vote must complete a statutory declaration form and submit it to the CWB Election Coordinator before November 17, 2006 at midnight (Central Time)

Click here for a statutory declaration, which must be signed and witnessed by a Commissioner for Oaths/Notary Public. 

Mail-in ballots must be post marked no later than December 1, 2006.

The CWB markets about $4 billion of grain per year, continues to regulate aspects of agriculture, and is an active lobbyist claiming to speak on behalf of all farmers. CWB directors are responsible for the strategic direction of the CWB and for overseeing management. Such direction may be more important now than ever before. It is important for all active farmers to vote in CWB director elections.

Further details and statutory declarations are available on the Election Coordinator’s website at www.cwbelection.com 

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Time has Come for Flexibility

Rolf Penner
for the Calgary Herald

The outdated monopoly power of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) sits like a wet blanket over the entire Prairie economy.  From plant breeders through to the farm gate and on to our rural communities, into our cities and right to our ports, the dampening effect is widespread, pervasive and tangible.

By keeping their election promise to give farmers marketing choice, the federal Conservatives could give that blanket a well-deserved airing.

A monopoly might have been appropriate in the days when the CWB negotiated five-year contracts for millions of tonnes sold to the Soviet Union - for many of which, incidentally, we ware still waiting to be paid.

It is not a necessary tool for negotiating small, single-lot sales into individual flour mills in niche markets.  Yet that is what the Board's own sales records show is the trend: selling more of less, that is, smaller amounts to more customers.

Equally important in this fast-moving environment is the fact we are no longer the lowest-cost producer of grain in the world.  We must compete instead on the basis of identify preservation of specific traits, tractability programs and precise quality standards for each shipment.  The current CWB model was built for large bulk exports.  It is not able to compete as successfully in these new, specialty, high-end world markets.

Some fear that tinkering with the board's monopoly power would result in the loss of jobs.  The truth is that under the current arrangement, we have been bleeding jobs for decades.  The grain industry is steadily consolidating because of the lack of access to these opportunities.  We continue to lose farmers because they cannot pursue new markets, at home or abroad.

Value-added processing - including flour mills, pasta plants, malting facilities or a wide range of specialty products - is currently being stifled.  We should be exporting meat pies, not bulk wheat and live animals.  And the development of new wheat and barley varieties, especially high-yielding ones for feeding livestock and new uses such as nutraceuticals and bio-energy is currently hampered by a bias towards the grains the CWB sold in the good old days.

In Australia, farmer Doug Cush recently fulfilled a dream our producers would love to emulate.  He opened his own flour mill, the final link in a chain that takes his farm's durum wheat "from the farm gate to the gourmet dinner plate."  Due to his comparative advantage, he is successfully selling pasta into Italy, of all places, a feat likened to taking coal to Newcastle.  His Bellata Gold pasta is sold in more than 500 stores across Australia, as well as Italy, US, the UK, Dubai and Korea.  He is not afraid of the multi-national bogeyman our National Farmers Union is wont to decry.  A small farmer, he is not a multi-national.

Many claim a dual market in wheat and barley is a metaphysical impossibility, that it won't work, and would be the end of the CWB.  They should look at the latest data coming out of the Ontario Wheat Board, whose farmers have been operating in a market-choice environment since 2003.

For the 2005-06 crop year, it was back up to handling a third of the total wheat crop, and is expected to make further gains this year.  Increased farm confidence in its performance means a record number of acres planted, as well as record yields and record quality.  A little choice and a little competition can improve things with amazing speed.

Two extreme positions dominate the current CWB debate.  One holds that the forced collectivization of wheat and barley growers is for their own good.  The other says that the federal government has no business being involved in the marketing of grain in any way whatsoever.  To their credit, the Harper Conservatives have found a sensible, middle-of-the-road compromise between these two extremes, one that recognizes a simple fact.  There is no "one right way" to sell wheat that works for everyone.  They intend to let the farmers who want to sell their own crops do so, and at the same time let those who are more comfortable having a Crown corporation with a shared governance structure do their marketing, remain under the Board's protective wing.

Unfortunately, opponents of modernizing the CWB are forcing the board to remove itself from the technical discussions on its future structure.  Instead of completely resisting change, its supporters should allow the CWB the freedom to help design its own future.  That flexibility would be in the best interest of our farmers and it would promote rural development across the Prairies by declaring to the world that the wet blanket is off and that Western Canada is now open for business.

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Barley farmers to get Wheat Board vote

The federal minister of agriculture said Tuesday some barley farmers will be able to vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Chuck Strahl said barley farmers will be able to cast ballots in a plebiscite next year.

The move comes after a task force recommended this week that the federal government set up a voluntary wheat board. It proposed that the new board be set up within two years and be completely owned by farmers with no financial support from Ottawa.

Ken Ritter, chair of the Canadian Wheat Board, said that while the decision doesn't include wheat growers, it's a positive step.

"It's a bit piecemeal and certainly if any changes are contemplated for wheat we would hold the minister to holding a plebiscite prior to any changes there as well," said Ritter.

One of 13 farmers arrested after crossing the border with grain in protest in 1996 also lauded the move.

"We all think the walls are coming down," Ike Lanier said at a rally Tuesday in Lethbridge to mark the 10th anniversary of the protest.

"It will not be long before we have our [grain marketing] freedom," he added.

The wheat board monopoly has long been a divisive issue for Prairie farmers. The federal minister said he has no immediate plans for a wheat plebiscite.

The task force recommended the monopoly on barley be removed first, followed by wheat six months later.

The Alberta Barley Commission has been opposed to the idea of a plebiscite.

"What's probably more important is if we get this Canadian Wheat Board election underway and if we get some marketing choice directors on board we can change the wheat board internally without having to go to all these plebiscites and extra costs," said Mike Lesley, the commission's general manager.

Strahl told a Commons committee in Ottawa a voters' list and questions will be announced after the board's elections this fall, with the plebiscite to be held next year.

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Grain farmers still fighting for freedom to pick markets

A coalition of Alberta grain farmers convicted 10 years ago for illegally moving their product south of the border without a permit from the Canadian Wheat Board continues to fight for change.

On October 31, 2002, 13 farmers went to jail, some for up to six months, because they refused to pay the $1,000 to $7,500 fines imposed on them.

With a rally planned in Lethbridge on Tuesday, they say little has changed when it comes to the selling rights of farmers.

"Things haven't changed much in the past 10 years," said Ron Duffy of Blackfalds , who served his full jail term in 2002. "We're in favour of a strong, viable Canadian Wheat Board for those who want to use it. We just want an end to the monopoly and the freedom to sell our grain wherever we want."

In 1996, the men were charged under the Canada Customs Act for illegally transporting grain across the U.S. border because they didn't have proper documentation.

At the time, Canadian farmers were fetching $8.50 Cdn a bushel for durum wheat south of the border, instead of $3.50 from the wheat board.

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Agriculture minister says Manitoba will hold its own vote on wheat board

MICHELLE MACAFEE

WINNIPEG (CP) - Manitoba's wheat and barley farmers will get their say on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, whether or not the federal government holds a plebiscite.

Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Tuesday the province will hold its own vote on the thorny issue of the board's monopoly if her federal counterpart Chuck Strahl refuses to abide by the Canadian Wheat Board Act and let farmers decide the board's fate.

"I'll do anything I can to have the producer's voice heard," said Wowchuk.

"If you listen to producers across the West, all of them say - or the majority of them say - that they should have a say. The wheat board is the farmers' organization."

Wowchuk acknowledged a Manitoba vote would be strictly symbolic.

But ignoring the people who would be most affected by any change disregards values such as accountability that the Conservatives (and the Alliance before them) have championed for years, she said.

A task force looking at ways to open western wheat and barley markets to competition has been studying the issue and is expected to report to Strahl within a week.

Strahl refused to commit to a plebiscite Tuesday, saying he wants to wait to see the committee's recommendations.

But he questioned the government's motivation for a Manitoba-only vote.

"I'm not sure exactly what it is, whether it's just a political gamesmanship thing here," Strahl said from Ottawa.

He said the issue is strictly federal jurisdiction.

"If we're going to get into having plebiscites and referendums on each other's jurisdiction, then I can hold one, I suppose, on the future of crop insurance and whether or not they (Manitoba) should top it up to match Alberta.

"Does anyone in Manitoba want me to do that? Of course not."

The Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments are both strong supporters of the board, while the Alberta government opposes its monopoly.

Agriculture ministers from all three provinces were to appear Wednesday before a Commons agriculture committee.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Mark Wartman said his province will stick to trying to convince Ottawa to hold a Prairie-wide plebiscite - for now.

"It takes time, money and energy to do something like that and we are focused on doing what we can to ensure that our farmers have the opportunity to make the decision," said Wartman.

But he said the government would consider a provincial vote if Strahl refuses.

Many board supporters have said Ottawa's approach is flawed and the plebiscite should have been held at the outset.

They say the board gets farmers the best possible price in a fiercely competitive international market.

Board chairman Ken Ritter said even though the Manitoba vote would be non-binding, it would "appeal to the court of public opinion and certainly bring this issue to a head so all politicians understand where Manitobans are on this issue."

But farm groups who back the Conservative position say farmers who want to market their own grain should be allowed to do so and a vote isn't necessary.

Joe Janzen, a farmer and director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said he doesn't see the point of the Manitoba government going it alone on a plebiscite.

"This thing has been hashed out backwards and forwards, this way and that, for long before I started farming," said Janzen, who has grown wheat near St. Francois Xavier just west of Winnipeg for seven years.

"Let's look at how we can move forward rather than arguing about if the current system is right."

Janzen said the wheat board is costing him money.

He said he's losing about a dollar a bushel on winter wheat because North Dakota elevators are paying farmers more.

About 7,000 farmers in Manitoba market through the wheat board. That represents about a quarter of all wheat board grain.

Manitoba's Opposition Conservatives stood behind the NDP government's plan.

Leader Hugh McFadyen said his party supports marketing choice, but in a letter sent Tuesday to Prime Minster Stephen Harper he urged the government to let farmers vote.

The Liberals, meanwhile, called on Premier Gary Doer to bring the legislature back early to pass an all-party resolution that could be taken to Ottawa.

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Agriculture minister announces plebiscite for barley farmers on wheat board

Michelle Macafee And Bruce Cheadle, Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

(CP) - After weeks of mounting pressure, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl announced Tuesday that Prairie barley farmers will get to vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly.

Strahl told a Commons committee in Ottawa the plebiscite will be held next year, with a voters' list and questions to be announced after the wheat board's director elections currently underway this fall.

The move comes just one day after Strahl released a task force report that recommended the federal government set up within two years a new, voluntary Canadian Wheat Board that would be completely owned by farmers.

The report recommended the monopoly on barley be removed first, followed by wheat six months later.

"Many of my own MPs have been saying, 'Let's ask the question,' " Strahl told the committee about why he finally decided to hold a barley plebiscite.

Strahl's comment prompted a cheeky reply from NDP MP Alex Atamanenko: "So you're doing it with barley because there's more chance of getting the answer you want?"

Strahl said he has no immediate plans for a wheat plebiscite.

"Our government is convinced the first step should be consultation through this plebiscite," he told reporters in Ottawa.

Critics argue the task force was fixed from the outset and the government got the answer it was seeking.

"I think strategically it's a very smart move on the part of the government but I don't agree with it," said Atamanenko. "I think it's a divisive action. It's going to sow more confusion into the lives of farmers."

Supporters of the board's monopoly say it gives farmers the best prices in a fiercely competitive international market, while opponents counter they should have the right to try to get better prices for their grain.

The Conservatives promised in the last election to give farmers a choice in marketing wheat and barley.

The Alberta government opposes the monopoly.

But the Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments have joined a coalition of farm groups and the wheat board executive in pressing Strahl to hold a plebiscite before taking steps to eliminate the monopoly.

They say the Canadian Wheat Board Act is clear that farmers must give a mandate to remove the single desk.

Canadian Wheat Board chairman Ken Ritter welcomed Strahl's decision and agreed it is best to hold off on the vote until after the board's director elections.

"This debate has come to a point where we now have to decide what's a fair and reasonable process; let's make the decision and let's move on with life," said Ritter, a farmer from Kindersley, Sask.

"I think it's important we do that because business uncertainty like what we've seen here is not good for farmers or the grain industry in Canada."

Ritter says the board's own surveys have shown support for the monopoly on barley is not as strong as it is for wheat, but he makes no predictions on the outcome of the vote.

Farm groups that have long lobbied for a dual market say they're disappointed in Strahl's decision.

For them, the issue isn't about what the majority wants, but in giving choice to any farmer who wants to sell their own grain.

"Having a plebiscite has never been our most comfortable option," said Jeff Nielsen, president of the Western Barley Growers Association.

"You're essentially pitting your neighbours against each other. My neighbour's way of marketing his grains could be totally different, and should be totally different, than how I market my grains."

Strahl has said he'll spend the next few weeks and months studying the task force recommendations before deciding how to proceed.

The report recommends the government introduce legislation to repeal the Canadian Wheat Board Act and pass new legislation for "Canadian Wheat Board II" by next June - an ambitious timetable in a minority Parliament.

Both the NDP and Liberals support the wheat board.

Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter said the key will be how the question is worded and who will be allowed to vote.

Strahl recently made contentious changes to the board's voters list to remove several thousand farmers who haven't sold grain to the board in the last two years.

"What this really is all about is further manipulation by the Government of Canada in which they're trying to take the focus off the undemocratic way they've been doing things," said Easter.

He said the decision to hold a barley plebiscite first is strategic because support is stronger for the board's wheat monopoly.

"If he can't win the barley vote he hasn't got a hope in the world of winning the wheat vote."

© The Canadian Press 2006

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It's amazing what a curious mind can discover, if you know where to look

The following is a submission by the Save the CWB Coalition that has been made publicly available. What was interesting was when I clicked on File then Properties then Summary, I discovered the document originated from the computer of a JNWhitley from the Canadian Wheat Board. I then clicked on Statistics and discover it was created Oct 4.2006 and was last saved by Yvonne Rideout KAP's general manager. So the CWB wrote the submission and sent it to KAP, who then turn around and present it to Minister Strahl as their own work.

To read more, click here.

Japan Changes Wheat Pricing

New System Will Link Imports to Market Prices Three Times a Year Instead of Once a Year

TOKYO (Nikkei) -- Japan's Ministry of Agriculture will from next April adopt a new system for pricing wheat in which the cost of imports will be linked to market prices two to three times a year, ending the current practice of fixing the figure once a year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported in its Tuesday evening edition.  
 
It will be the first change in the pricing policy in 59 years.  
 
The ministry will simultaneously introduce an auction system intended to allow flour milling firms to make bids for wheat procurement.  
 
The move to more closely link wheat prices to market movements will change the grain's status to that of an "ordinary commodity," such as rice. Japan imports roughly 5 million tons of wheat annually, or about 90% of domestic consumption.  
 
Under the existing system, the government purchases all the wheat through trading firms and sells it to flour milling firms at prices slightly above those for domestically produced wheat.  
 
The benchmark price for wheat sold to milling and other companies is currently Y45,350 per ton, about twice what the government pays to purchase it. The government uses proceeds from the gap between the benchmark rate and its purchase price to finance the subsidies for wheat farmers.  
 
The new system, under which the government can revise its sales price after taking into account international trends, allows it to adjust the cost according to fluctuations in overseas prices.  
 
Given that international wheat prices are hovering around a 10-year high, the new system may push up the retail cost of wheat, bread and noodles.  
 
The existing method has created strong dissatisfaction among flour milling firms, because even when international prices decline, they still have to buy expensive wheat.  
 
Conversely, the government at times has to maintain lower prices despite rises in market prices.

Ottawa names new director to Canadian Wheat Board

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The government moved a step closer on Friday to dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on sales of Prairie grain.

Ottawa has appointed Alberta grain and livestock farmer Ken Motiuk as one of its directors on the CWB, which is fighting plans by the Conservative government to end its marketing monopoly on western wheat and barley.

"As we move toward a new marketing choice environment, the CWB will benefit from directors like Mr. Motiuk, who will work to ensure the board remains a strong and viable marketing option for farmers to choose in the future," federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said in a release.

Motiuk supports Ottawa's plan to allow a dual market, in which farmers would be allowed to choose between marketing their crops through the board, or selling directly on the private market.

The CWB has argued that letting farmers opt in and out of its single-desk selling system would destroy its ability to effectively sell Canadian grain to foreign markets and it would not survive.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based wheat board is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. Ten of its 15 board members are elected by farmers, with five appointed by Ottawa.

The CWB markets grain for about 85,000 western farmers and has annual sales of between C$4 billion and C$6 billion.

Strahl has previously stated the transition to a dual market would include keeping the CWB viable but voluntary.

In August, the wheat board announced its vision of the CWB that included becoming a nonprofit corporation without share capital to operate its single-desk marketing structure and pool accounts for farmers.

Coming to a Head

"No doubt... we're moving toward dual marketing," says Agriculture Minister

The federal government is making plans to allow Western farmers to market their wheat and barley outside the Canadian Wheat Board and the issue may not require the producer plebiscite some are calling for, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said July 27.

"There's no doubt about what the government's positions is, which is we're moving toward dual marketing," Strahl said.

Strahl met with a select group of organizations and farmer sin a closed session Thursday at the Sheraton Cavalier hotel in Saskatoon to discuss options for creating more marketing choice and greater returns for farmers, in a system that would still allow the wheat board to exist.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the only marketer, or "single-desk" seller, of wheat and barley in the West, as system it's supporters say provides big benefits for farmers.

More than 200 farmers gathered at the Delta Bessborough Hotel across the street from Strahl's invitation-only meeting to hear speeches in support of the board's single desk and urge the government to allow farmers to decide its fate.

They say that under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, prairie farmers would need to approve changes to the board's marketing mandate through a vote.

But Strahl, who called his gathering a "very preliminary meeting," said whether such a vote is required depends on what action is taken.

"Some changes can be made by regulations, order-in-council, some can be made legislatively and then there is the option of the plebiscite as well.  We haven't made any decisions on that and that would be part of the consultative process."

He noted the Conservatives campaigned openly on the intention to create a dual market.

"We didn't mince words.  We weren't trying to be clever about it," Strahl said.  "In one sense, the election si the biggest referendum of all."

Strahl said the groups he met with are confident the board can continue to operate even if producers can go outside to market products.  He said he also plans to consult with the wheat board.  He couldn't provide a timeline for potential changes.

Strahl, Farmers Ponder Wheat Board's Future Role

Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl says allowing Western farmers to market their wheat and barley outside the Canadian Wheat Board may not require a vote by producers.

"Some changes can be made by regulations, order-in-council, some can be made legislatively and then there is the option of the plebiscite as well," Strahl said. "We haven't made any decisions on that and that would be part of the consultative process."

Strahl met with a select group of organizations and farmers in a closed session in Saskatoon last week to discuss options for creating more marketing choice and greater returns for farmers in a system that would still allow the wheat board to exist.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the only marketer, or "single-desk" seller, of wheat and barley in the West, a system its supporters say provides big benefits for farmers.

Farmers on the Prairies are divided over the issue of dual marketing and many say it should be up to them, not the federal government, to decide the board's future.

Strahl, who called his gathering a "very preliminary meeting," said whether such a vote is required depends on what action is taken.

"There's no doubt about what the government's position is, which is we're moving toward dual marketing," Strahl added.

He noted the Conservatives promised in their election campaign to create a dual market.

"We didn't mince words. We weren't trying to be clever about it," Strahl said. "In one sense, the election is the biggest referendum of all."

More than 200 farmers gathered across the street from Strahl's invitation-only meeting to hear speeches in support of the board's single desk.

Under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, farmers say they would have to vote on changes to the board's marketing mandate.

Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union, said the wheat board belongs to Western Canadian farmers.

"They should make the decisions through their elected directors that they send to that board," he said.

But some attending Strahl's meeting said they want change and don't think a vote is necessary.

"If I'm the only farmer out there that doesn't want to farm through single desk, I should have the right to seek other options. That's the principle behind an independent business owner," said Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

Some farmers who rallied in a downtown Saskatoon park questioned why Strahl's meeting wasn't open to all.

"Personally, I say they're flouting our democratic process," said Joe Holden, a farmer from Lloydminster.

"I would expect they would try to get rid of the wheat board, but to me it's totally undemocratic the procedure that we're having."

Strahl reaffirms pledge to end Wheat Board monopoly

Tom Jackson of Killam, AB, whose truck was impounded at the border 10 years ago after he hauled grain illegally to the US, was in Saskatoon Thursday as government officials and invited participants discussed dual marketing in a closed door meeting.  Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said the government is moving toward allowing Western grain farmers to market wheat and barley outside of the Canadian Wheat Board.  (SP Photo by Gord Waldner)

Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl says he's moving ahead with a plan to end the "single desk" system that gives the Canadian Wheat Board a monopoly on marketing grain.

Strahl met Thursday with a select group of farmers in Saskatoon to discuss ways of introducing a "dual marketing" system for the export sale of wheat and barley.

A dual system would allow farmers to sell their own grain and therefore take advantage of market conditions to get the best prices.

Noting that the Conservative government is acting on an election promise, Strahl said he wants to meet with the Canadian Wheat Board to discuss possible changes, including "everything from election of directors to how they might be financed to how they might be self-sustaining."

Calls for a plebiscite

Wheat Board director Ian McCreary said he has some concerns but is prepared to meet with the minister.

"If he's got some firm proposal that does make a viable wheat board in the future, we're interested in hearing about that," he said.

There were some protesters outside near the federal meeting Thursday, an early indication that any move to dual marketing would be fraught with controversy.

Some farmers and farm organizations support the wheat board in its present form and are dead-set against ending the monopoly. Proponents say having the wheat board as the single desk for marketing grain ensures stable prices for Canadian farmers. Without the monopoly, many fear it would be the beginning of the end for the Winnipeg-based agency.

There have been calls for Ottawa to put any changes in the wheat board to a farmer plebiscite, although Strahl says the government has the power to act on its own in some areas.

"We will be looking at what we can do by regulations, what we need to do by legislation and if necessary what we need to do by plebiscite," he said.

Tories offer up to $550 million in short-term funding for low-income farmers

Michelle MacAfee, The Canadian Press
Published: Monday, July 31, 2006

WINNIPEG -- Low-income Canadian farmers can now apply for short-term financial aid under a two-year, $550-million federal pilot project, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl announced Monday.

Farm families who have a total income of less than $25,000 will be eligible, as well as individual farmers earning less than $15,000.

Strahl said the goal of the program is to help those who have not been able to take advantage of other aid programs, or who need bridge financing.

“This is not a get-rich-quick scheme,” Strahl told a news conference.

Strahl said as many as 26,000 farmers could qualify.

Farmers and agriculture groups welcomed the help, but some say many producers will likely be deterred from applying because of the mandatory business planning and skills programs that come with the money.

“I suspect many of those farm families are working 24-7 and have very little time to take any additional skills training” said David Rolfe, president of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, Manitoba’s largest farm lobby group. 

“They’ve certainly not sat on their backsides wondering what to do. They’re working as many hours as they can to make ends meet.”

Rolfe said the underlying problems on most Canadian farms are external factors such as weather, the BSE crisis that crushed the cattle industry, and low commodity prices — not bad management.

Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter echoed Rolfe’s concerns, saying the Conservative government is adopting a “blame the victim” approach.

“It leaves the impression that if these guys just take a skills training course everything would be hunky-dory on the farm,” said Easter.

Strahl called the program innovative.

“The objective obviously is not simply just to hand out money. The objective is also to work with farmers, so this is a short-term option and they’ll come out of it profitable.”

He added the program isn’t meant to address issues such as low commodity prices, but said it will help producers who have fallen through the cracks in other programs, such as disaster relief. 

It will also make sure farmers are taking advantage of all the benefits they can, such as greater production insurance.

“It’s hard to say to someone, 'There’s not enough money to put food on the table but if you could just change the commodity prices for next year you’ll get by.’”

Les Kurbis, a cattle and organic grain farmer near Beausejour, Man., said he’ll probably apply for the money to help offset two years of low income caused by the BSE crisis and soggy crops.

“I’m not for welfare, and this is just about what it comes to,” said Kurbis, who was invited to attend the news conference by Justice Minister Vic Toews, Manitoba’s senior cabinet representative.

“I’m sure it will be a help, but in the end it’s the commodity prices (that are the problem) so to get through that we’ll definitely look at it.”

Minister Strahl Announces Meeting With Farmers on Marketing Choice for Wheat and Barley

The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced that he will participate in a roundtable meeting to be chaired by David L. Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board on July 27 in Saskatoon.

This Roundtable will hear ideas from a cross-section of western Canadian farmers, stakeholder organizations and others who support the advancement of marketing choice for farmers as a means for creating greater financial returns.

"Canada's new government campaigned on the idea that western Canadian grain producers should have a choice whether to market their products through the CWB," said Minister Strahl. "Our invited experts will help chart a path towards a successful marketing choice alternative that will also ensure a strong and profitable CWB continues to serve farmers in the future."

The ideas presented and discussed at this meeting will contribute to delivering on the new government's campaign promise to implement dual-marketing for western grain producers.

Click here for a letter of support and thanks you can fax to Minister Strahl.

Chilliwack Constituency Office:
106 – 8615 Young Street
Chilliwack BC  V2P 4P3

Phone: (604) 792-3311
1-800-667-2808
Fax: (604) 795-3033

E-mail: riding@chuckstrahl.com

Lillooet Constituency Office
657 Main Street, Lillooet, BC

Phone: 250 256-2677
Fax:  250 256-2678
Email:  riding@chuckstrahl.com

Ottawa Office:
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Phone: (613) 992-2940
Fax: (613) 995-5621

E-mail: ottawa@chuckstrahl.com

Senate Urges Quick Action for Farmers

Quick infusion of money to farmers, a new national farm support program, a made-in-Canada farm bill and a government farmer-first policy are key recommendations from a Senate committee released Thursday. 

The Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, chaired by Lethbridge Sen. Joyce Fairbairn, launched a series of public hearings in response to farmer-held farm income demonstrations across the country this past winter and spring.

Fairbairn kicked off a press conference with an interim report that puts a new light and urgency to the farm income crisis. It points the way to help stem the crisis and rebuild the rural community structure across Canada.

“It was clear to all of us on the committee that the depth of the crisis facing Canadian farmers and their rural communities is so profound that we needed to release this interim report immediately,” she said. “If the government does not move quickly to address this situation, there will be disastrous and irremediable consequences to the lives of Canadians, particularly in our rural communities.”

A local industry spokesman said the senators are on the right track.

Andy Kovacs of Lethbridge, executive director of the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission, said short- and long-term solutions to agriculture’s problems are essential, and what government has to do is decide to make an investment in agriculture.

“We in agriculture don’t want to keep running back to government for money,” he said.

If nothing is done, Fairbairn said, there will be a fundamental change in rural communities, leading to changes for all Canadians. She fears the loss of the very fabric which has made Canada what it is, a loss which will eventually stream through all Canadians.

Loss of the Canadian agricultural industry could lead to loss of independence for Canadians, and not just from a total dependence on imported food.

The grain and oilseeds sector is in dire need of help, and that is why the committee is pushing for a four-year income program. Sending money quickly to farmers is vital to bridge the income gap.

Farmers — facing their worst income levels in history — must be able to earn a decent living for their families, said Fairbairn. Canadian farm debt increased by more than 90 per cent between 1995 and 2005 and stands at $51 billion.
“Through no fault of their own, thousands of farmers across rural Canada are being battered by grain prices kept low notably because of U.S. and European farm subsidies,” she said. “Farm groups told us that their members are borrowing against the last vestiges of equity in their homes and farms so that they can continue to produce food for us. It is our government's responsibility to implement a direct payment program, quickly, that will provide money for farm operations until farmers can recover from this crisis and begin planning for their future.”

Over the summer, the committee will be working on a major study to begin in the fall. The committee will head out across Canada, as well as continuing its hearings in Ottawa.

It will look at a range of issues, including the development of a biodiesel industry in Canada, and will be ahead of schedule compared with the House of Commons in developing policies to solve the problem.

The Senate is calling for a four-year, direct payment program for the debt-laden grains and oilseeds sector in Canada, with payments calculated on the basis of historical yield and acreage. The payment would be an add-on to existing programs.

The committee also urged the government to develop a true Canadian Farm Bill that would establish clear goals for the industry and put farmers at the centre of the government's commitment to agriculture.

Merv Cradduck of Purple Springs is all for the farmer first policy.

“One thing we must be aware of is that farmers have very little power in our economic system, and they must find ways to get some say rather than having to keep running back to government for money,” said the director for Wild Rose Agricultural Producers.

Field of Dreams

CALGARY (CP) — Warm temperatures and regular rain may have created dreamlike crop conditions across the Prairies, but James Chatenay decided this spring he’d lose less money if he wasn’t farming. 

Rock-bottom commodity prices on the world market combined with soaring production costs made the financial outlook bleak, even with the potential for a bumper crop. 

“If I was grain farming I can already tell you I’d lose anywhere from $30 to $40 an acre,” said Chatenay, a director on the Canadian Wheat Board who has grown barley for 45 years. 

Chatenay has rented out all but 160 of his 1,000 acres (65 of 405 hectares) near Penhold in central Alberta. The remainder is being used for silage for a neighbour’s cattle feedlot. 

“It didn’t matter what you attempted to grow,” said Chatenay. “Because of the $70 oil, our fuel bill is ridiculous, the fertilizer has gone up, repairs have gone up, new machinery is out of the question. When you put all our inputs together, even though you do have a wonderful crop, is it going to be enough? At today’s prices, no. But we can hope for a better price in the future.” While Chatenay’s move may seem drastic, he’s not alone.

“The crops look great and that certainly raises the spirits of a lot of growers, but at the same time that doesn’t solely make things all rosy,” said Rob Park, who oversees Manitoba Agriculture’s weekly crop report.

“We need to have maximum yield potential,” said Park. “We have to have big yields and be well above normal to break even or make money on a lot of these commodities.”

So far, the signs are positive. Canola and flax are flowering, while farmers are starting to apply fungicide to protect the strong early growth of wheat, barley and oats.

Doug Miller of Acme says he’s never seen such a good start, but cautions that it’s still a long way to harvest.

“That doesn’t mean you’re going to make money,” said Miller, whose mixed operation includes 200 head of cattle and 6,500 acres (2,630 hectares) of grains and oilseeds northeast of Calgary. 

“That just means you have a good crop coming,” he said. “There’s a huge difference.” 

Alberta Agriculture estimates most producers in the province are looking at their best start in years. More than 80 per cent of crop conditions are rated good or excellent and most growth is about a week ahead of normal. 

“We have grass, so much grass that our cows will never eat it. We have crops coming beyond belief,” said Miller. “But time and time again, it’s a helluva challenge to get it (off) come September and October. It’s not in the bin until it’s in the bin.”

About two million acres (810,000 hectares) of farmland wasn’t seeded in Saskatchewan because of wet conditions last fall. But more than 75 per cent of crops that are in the ground are in good to excellent condition, said agricultural economist Terry Bedard.

A recent spate of hot weather is helping to dry out some rain-saturated areas where spraying for weed control has been delayed because of the soggy conditions.

“This was our first week of several days with no rain and warm temperatures,” Bedard said from Regina.

Court Schedule Set for R-CALF BSE Rule Appeal Process

Hearing date set for Sept. 21, 2006

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has established a hearing schedule regarding R-CALF USA's recent appeal of an April 2006 decision by U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, with opening briefs scheduled for Sept. 21, 2006.

Cebull denied a permanent injunction against USDA's final rule that allows cattle under 30 months of age and beef products from cattle younger than 30 months of age into the United States from Canada.

USDA's response brief is due Oct. 23, 2006. Then R-CALF USA's reply is due 14 days after service of USDA's brief. A statement from R-CALF states at this date, no time has been set for oral argument.

"The 9th Circuit ruled in July 2005 that USDA should be given deference in this matter, but there's never been an evaluation of all of the evidence, by either the 9th Circuit or the District Court," says R-CALF USA President and Region V Director Chuck Kiker. "We are pleased that our case is moving forward, and we are hopeful the full merits of our case will be considered eventually by the district court."

A preliminary injunction, granted to R-CALF USA by the District Court in March 2005, was reversed in July 2005 by a three-judge panel at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. R-CALF USA then asked the District Court to hear argument on its pending motion for summary judgment, but instead Cebull decided, in effect, that the 9th Circuit already had decided the merits of the case. In his April 2006 decision, Cebull said his "hands were tied" and that the 9th Circuit had instructed him to 'abide by this deferential standard,' and 'respect the agency's judgment and expertise.'"

Did You Know?

Are you aware that Agriculture has been "on the table" with the WTO talks at Geneva?  Along with Alberta Ag Minister Horner, Federal Ag Minister Stahl, delegations from Canada supporting supply management including the CWB are in Geneva full force besides the Alberta delegation pushing for free trade issues.

These discussions will be winding down on July 4th.  Canada has the two delegations at opposite ends where the rest of the countries are united on the home front.  Canada is the only country to vote opposite from the rest at the WTO table!

When the Alberta delegation when to Geneva in April 2005, other countries were surprised but pleased to see that not all Canadians are pushing for "Supply Management".

Thank You, Veterans

Canada has celebrated another 'Canada Day' enjoying this great countries freedom and riches - because from the Veterans card out 'fallen brothers' efforts, in their younger years.

We hope that you know we do remember and truly appreciate our freedoms, and choices that we have everyday with your loved ones.

CGC & Canada Grain Act Review

The Canadian Grain Commission and the Canada Grain Act are now being reviewed.  The review is being conducted by an independent party retained by Ag Canada called Compas Inc.  They have conducted an on-line survey and produced a discussion paper, available by clicking here.

The paper includes the process from here on out - in particular there will be public forums June 12-29 across Canada (see page 2).  The input period will end in late June/early July so they can prepare their report for Minister Strahl by Sept 1.  You can make a written submission to grain@compas.ca or complete the questionnaire at www.compas.ca/grain 

Mr. Prime Minister, Please tell me....

… you will live up to your election promise to work within the WTO to reduce the international quota tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies that are crippling Canadian farmers – especially barley growers.  They cost us more than $1 billion every year and make it impossible to compete globally.

… you’ll negotiate for a WTO agreement that would end the U.S. Farm Bill, which in 2005 gave $10.2 billion (US) to American corn growers and helped drive Canadian barley prices to new lows.

… you and your Trade and Agriculture ministers will engage immediately in current WTO negotiations, and show the world that “Canada is a trading nation and we agree to free trade concepts.”

… you’ll be there for me and for Canada’s agricultural producers – 90% of us rely on world trade!

… your response.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Click here to print the above letter to be mailed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  No postage is required.

Strahl Supports Change to Wheat Board's Monopoly

Larry Kusch
Winnipeg Free Press

Saturday, May 20, 2006 -- WINNIPEG -- Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl says there's momentum building in support of changing the Canadian Wheat Board's mandate, and he supports a Conservative MP's private member's bill that would allow farmers to sell grain directly to processors.

Strahl said he doesn't have a timetable for implementing a Conservative party campaign promise to formally end the wheat board's monopoly on wheat and barley sales. But he said Friday that he is open to making incremental changes to the board's powers.

Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz tabled a bill Wednesday that would permit wheat and barley growers to sell "directly to an association or firm engaged in the processing of grain" if the company were primarily owned by Canadian farmers. Strahl said Friday that makes sense to him, and the government would be "looking at options to try to make that possible for them."

"If farmers own the co-op and they're shipping to their own plant, they don't see why they should have to ship it through the wheat board. And of course I tend to agree with that."

Farmers are already free to sell lower-quality grain directly to livestock feed mills or ethanol plants. But they must market their wheat and barley through the wheat board if the grain is intended for human consumption. Wheat destined for a flour mill or barley intended for malting, for example, must be sold through the board.

Bill Nicholson, a Manitoba farmer and wheat board director, said if farmers were allowed to sell high-quality grain directly to processors, it could be the thin edge of the wedge in undermining the wheat board's monopoly position.

He said Ritz's bill -- if it were to become law -- works against the wheat board principle that all farmers share in all markets. The board calls it "price pooling."

"This is a departure from that," said Nicholson, adding it would mean "a select group of farmers (had) access to the premium Canadian market."

Or it could mean processors would buy grain at rates other than what the board would charge in the North American market, possibly provoking U.S. trade action, Nicholson said. He said the wheat board encourages farmers to deliver grain directly to millers and malting facilities -- and even pays them a $3-a-tonne fee to do it. But they then receive the wheat board initial payment at time of delivery, and any other payments once the year's wheat and barley "pools" are closed.

Farmers are also free to negotiate a break on handling fees with the processors when they make such deliveries, added Nicholson.

Strahl, however, said "people are starting to chomp at the bit" for change. He said there are "lots of pushes out there" to remove barley from the wheat board's mandate. But he said he's not going to make any major changes right away.

"I've always been reluctant to say, `Let's throw the wheat board out the window or make such drastic changes that it creates another set of uncertainties for farmers.' I just think it's better to talk about incremental changes in a kind of rational and measured way. I think it's what farmers want, and I think it's in the best interests of our overall economy."

Keystone Agricultural Producers president David Rolfe said farmers -- not MPs -- should be the ones voting on any changes to the wheat board. He questioned whether there was any momentum building to amend the wheat board's powers.

"There certainly are a vocal few who are requesting change, but I suspect that the majority of producers who market under the CWB would want the opportunity to voice their opinion on that issue ... in a ballot or referendum or plebiscite or whatever."

Farmers' anger boils over

Head of landowners group arrested by city police

May 17, 2006 CORNWALL - Unrest among rural landowners boiled over Tuesday as protesters burst through a police barricade, forcing their way into the Nav Canada main lobby.

Leading the charge was Randy Hillier, president of the Ontario and Lanark landowners associations.

Minutes earlier, Hillier had been released from a holding cell at the Cornwall police headquarters. He had been arrested for trespassing about 7 a.m as he and several other landowners entered the Nav Canada property.

They were to begin preparations for their demonstration against Ontario Minister of Environment Laurel Broten who was scheduled to speak at the Source Water Protection conference, which is being held at Nav Canada.

"Randy (Hillier) was shoved up against a cruiser and cuffed," said landowner Ian Cumming, a witness.

Cumming said a Cornwall officer then instructed OPP Sgt. Brian Eadie to arrest him, too.

"But we've known each other for years. I turned to Brian and said, 'Are you coming to my barbecue'."

Cumming walked away.

The landowners were voicing their objections to the proposed Clean Water Act. They claim it will have dire consequences on rural landowners, including the expropriation of private land where water is considered at risk, without compensation.

Hillier was asked by police not to return to Nav Canada where, in his absence, other landowner executives placed a wagon across the entrance way where at least 200 supporters gathered. Several police officers, including Ontario Provincial Police, kept watch several metres away up the entrance.

Minister Broten avoided the blockade by going through a side entrance at around 9 a.m., and after addressing the conference, also left through the same or similar entrance.

Another cruiser was then placed to the west at the nearest side street, Dunbar Avenue, off Montreal Road, where traffic was re-routed.

Meanwhile, landowners had alerted Alexandria-based lawyer Judith Wilcox, who then drove down to represent Hillier at a possible bail hearing. The session wasn't needed and Hillier was released.

"It's not normal for police to detain a person for trespassing," Wilcox said, as she waited for Hillier to return. "If the trespasser persists he is served notice (of the charge).

"I think he was singled out," she said.

Landowner Jim Picken of Alexandria was also suspicious.

"It was a set-up. They knew in advance he was going to be there."

Wilcox intercepted Hillier before he reached the west blockade, brought him into her car and transported him to Nav Canada's entrance.

"Mr. Hillier and I are going to look at every aspect (of the arrest) and civil litigation will be discussed," Wilcox said.

He was greeted with a roar from the crowd, before mounting the wagon where he lambasted the provincial government and the police for their actions.

He indicated that a double-standard exists. He said police do not respond whenever government "agents" enter a landowner's property.

Nav Canada spokesperson Louis Garneau said later that his organization, a private company, is the property owner -- not the federal government. Correctional Services Canada also operates out of the complex.

"We have a responsibility to the employees, customers and patrons to provide a safe and secure environment," Garneau said.

"A large demonstration was expected and as such we asked the demonstration be off our property out of concern for the safety and security of clients."

Hillier then stepped off the wagon, and headed up to the Nav Canada entrance, followed by his protesters.

He was stopped by Cornwall police Sgt. Kurt Fraser and several other officers.
Fraser repeatedly asked Hillier not to proceed, but the landowner replied: "I am going to speak to this conference."

After a few strides, the two briefly tussled then broke apart after a middle-aged female landowner fell amidst them with a loud cry.

Hillier emerged and the officers parted.

Hillier and other landowner executives then led the crowd up to the closed powered sliding doors inside the main entrance.

Hillier stepped forward and with assistance from one other, he pried them open while security momentarily tried to keep them closed on the other side.

Hillier then broke through with a couple of dozen following on his heels.
Before long, a large group of police and security personnel had assembled, barring access to the conference rooms.

Negotiations then took place for about half an hour with police, Nav Canada officials and the conference host, Dr. Jeff Ridal, of the St. Lawrence River Institute.

The landowners had not made an earlier request to speak at the conference, Ridal told the Standard-Freeholder during a break in the negotiations.

ALLOWED TO SPEAK
Ridal agreed to let Hillier and Lanark landowners vice-president Merle Bowes to speak for a few minutes to conference participants. Among them were bureaucrats who would be in charge of implementing the proposed Clean Water Act (Bill 43).

Hillier, in a booming voice, urged the participants to take heed of their concerns or expect the "destruction" caused as landowners "shoulder the cost of Bill 43."

"Landowners have been good stewards of the land," he said, adding it is the cities which pollute the water. "That's where the danger (is), not my six acres."

Bowes concluded the presentation, warning those in attendance that landowners would be forced to detain government officials who tread their property while carrying out government regulations.

"If they don't have the right to be there, we will detain them and wait for police to come there," said Picken afterwards.

The Ministry of Environment did not provide a comment on the landowners' concerns.

Denis St. Pierre, a private water consultant attending the conference, sympathized with the landowners.

"There was no consultation with landowners," he said, citing that terms of reference for creating the legislation.

St. Pierre, a former farmer, said the Sierra Club had kick-started water protection legislation and that its "upper level lobbying" struck a chord with top federal government politicians, which has filtered down to the provincial level.

Cornwall police Insp. D'Arcy Dupuis said later Hillier is under investigation for further trespassing charges as well as his forced entry into Nav Canada.

"They were told not to come onto the Nav Canada property," Dupuis said, adding when Hillier persisted he was arrested.

He said Hillier was detained in the holding cell at the police station to prevent him from returning immediately to the property.

Hillier has a history of police confrontations.

Last March, he instructed a farmer, who was operating a front-end loader, to nudge an officer with the shovel. Hillier and other landowners were on hand at the farm to prevent the removal of chickens and eggs.

Dupuis said it was the first time in many years that a protester has been arrested in Cornwall.

Improving Farm Support Programs

http://www.fin.gc.ca/budget06/bp/bpc3be.htm#farm  
 
Our farmers feed Canadians and the world, and in doing so provide a strong economic foundation for our rural communities. Over the past years, Canadian farmers have shown their continued resilience in facing challenges such as animal disease, bad weather and difficult market conditions, which have impaired their ability to make a decent livelihood from agriculture. In support of our farmers and farming communities, one of this government’s first actions in February 2006 was to disburse, on an accelerated basis, payments under the $755-million Grains and Oilseeds Payment Program. 
 
This government has committed to provide an additional $500 million per year for farm support and to work with farmers and other partners towards securing a more prosperous future for this sector. This budget delivers on the commitment to new funding, but goes further and announces an additional one-time investment of $1 billion in 2006–07 to assist farmers in the transition to new programming. 
 
The Government has committed to replace the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program with more effective programming for farm income stabilization and disaster relief. The Government is consulting with producers and the provinces and territories to replace CAIS with new programming cost-shared on a 60:40 basis between the federal and provincial-territorial governments. In an immediate move towards more effective programming, the Government will provide one-time funding to shift the inventory valuation method under CAIS to make the program more responsive, and put in place deeper loss coverage, cost-shared with provinces and territories. In support of improved disaster coverage, the Government will also implement a Cover Crop Protection Program to help farmers deal with the damage caused by flooding of their fields. 
 
In support of the future competitiveness and prosperity of the industry, the Government will invest in ongoing measures, including the enhancement of cash advance programming, new investments in biomass science and funding in support of a biofuels strategy, and new programming to support the agri-food industry in developing new market opportunities. In recognition of their unique challenge, the Government will also put in place measures to help low-income farm families. 
 
In total, Budget 2006 provides an incremental $1.5 billion for the farm sector in the current fiscal year.

Harper Says Era of Rural Neglect is Over

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promising to end what he calls an era of government neglect for Canadian farmers.

In a sharply partisan speech, Harper led a take-note agriculture debate in Parliament on Thursday evening by committing to increase existing farm support programs by half a billion dollars annually. "Canada's new government is going to go to the wall on the issues that matter to our farmers and rural communities," the prime minister told the Commons on just the second sitting day of the new session.

Harper, whose party failed to elect a single MP in Canada's three biggest cities - Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal - said previous Liberal governments ignored the concerns of rural Canada and farmers for a decade.

"I'm here today to tell Canadians that this era of negligence ended on Jan. 23."

Interim Liberal leader Bill Graham responded by questioning Harper's partisan tone.

Graham noted that the previous Liberal government provided $5 billion to Canadian farmers last year, earmarked another $750 million for short-term  relief, worked at the World Trade Organization to lower international farm subsidies and put in place a national ethanol fuel program.

"A take note debate like tonight is an opportunity for us to exchange real ideas on how we can help Canadians come to real solutions to their problems," said Graham.

"When are you going to take responsibility for what you're going to do in the country?"

As the MPs debated, farmers protested on Parliament Hill for a second straight day and hinted at more demonstrations across Ontario.

Thousands of farmers brought traffic in the centre of the national capital to a standstill on Wednesday to protest rock-bottom agricultural prices.

Harper, speaking in the Commons, reiterated a number of Conservative campaign promises concerning agriculture. 

He said the government wants to replace the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization Program with a "simpler, much more responsive" system and is urging provinces to negotiate a new plan. 

He promised to support existing supply-management programs, and said western grain farmers will be given "dual marketing options" when it comes to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Harper reiterated a promise to diversify farming by requiring five per cent renewable fuel content - such as ethanol or biodeisel - by 2010. 

The prime minister also committed to negotiating a "phased reduction" in international farm subsidies, something successive Liberal governments had attempted with little success. 

"I do not say we can fix the neglect of a decade overnight, and I know that our producers don't expect that," said Harper.

"But in the weeks, months and years ahead, our government is going to move ahead, not with mere words but with actions." 

Many critics argue the farm crisis is beyond the scope of the national government, fuelled as it is by crushing American and European agriculture export subsidies.

Others point to booming agribusiness, which posted record profits in 2004 while farmers suffered near-record losses, according at a recent study by the National Farmers Union.

The farmer's share of revenue from a $3.64 box of corn flakes currently amounts to less than seven cents, said the study.

Something is Rotten

This morning I picked up a Montana phone book, went to the yellow pages and looked up fertilizer dealers along the high line in Northern Montana. At random I picked Harvest States Co-operative Fertilizer Plant in Rudyard, Montana, dialed 406-355-4154, and asked for a cash price on 46-0-0. The price was $340.00 U.S. for a short ton (2,000 lbs). At an exchange rate of $1.15 on the money this works out to $408.00 Can per metric tonne. 

Compare this to several quotes from fertilizer dealers in southern Alberta. Cash quotes I received ranged from $450.00 to $470.00 Can. per metric tonne. 

The fertilizer being sold on the high line all comes from Alberta plants. There has been a steady stream of trucks hauling this fertilizer south all year long.

The question is why are Alberta producers being held for ransom to the tune of $42.00 to $62.00 Can per metric tonne. 

Is it because the Government of Alberta still doesn't have enough money to keep  all the bureaucrats and parasites on payroll and payolla. Or is it because the poor CEO's of Encana and Exxon need $20 million a year to work and $400 million to take a walk.

The likely answer to this question is both of the above.

This at a time when all ag commodity prices for grain and cattle are at or near record lows and have been for years.

Something is rotten in Alberta, it is time for a house cleaning.

Regards
Warren Brower

Beef farmers urged to appeal bills

Ottawa wants producers to pony up thousands in program overpayments

By CATHY VON KINTZEL Truro Bureau

TRURO — Struggling cattle farmers supposedly overpaid under a federal program designed to help them through tough times are being urged to appeal bills they’ve been receiving.

Jim Bremner, chairman of Nova Scotia Cattle Producers, said Monday some farmers who received interim or special advance payments in 2004 at the height of the crisis over mad cow disease are now being told they were overpaid to the tune of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

His group is urging farmers to appeal if they think their bills aren’t justified and is calling on Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl to set the bills aside while officials work out "kinks" in the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program.

"We’re saying the program is in such a mess that nobody knows whether they’re in overpayment," Mr. Bremner, a beef farmer from Falmouth, said in a telephone interview.

Agriculture Canada urges farmers who receive overpayment notices to contact the department if they have concerns.

But "appealing puts the whole thing back on the government’s table and that helps our efforts to get the whole thing put aside for an extended period of time," Mr. Bremner said.

"Producers don’t need this extra stress."

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey are also hearing from farmers and urging them to appeal unjustified bills.

Leroy and Ellen Millard, who have a cattle farm near Tatamagouche, plan to appeal, saying they needed the money then and still need it.

"Our income was very low because we didn’t market anything," Ms. Millard said.

But the program calculated unsold cattle as potential income — and thus income — for their Sand Point farm’s bottom line.

To make matters worse, Ms.Millard said, the value for each animal was inflated and didn’t reflect what they would have been worth at market.

"The whole program is flawed," said Ms. Millard, who attended a meeting of producers in Amherst last weekend, along with Mr. Casey.

"I’m amazed at the variety of different problems people are having with the program," the MP said, listing mixed messages, owing more than they received and being charged for services they didn’t want.

"They’re so discouraged by the government making their already terrible situation worse. I hope we can find some way to provide some relief."

Mr. Casey said he’d like to hear from people who have received overpayment letters so he can keep track.

Agriculture Canada and provincial officials are trying to improve the program. The department said in a release the program needs to be "simpler and more responsive to the needs of producers."

Ellen Funk, program spokeswoman in Winnipeg, didn’t know how many overpayment bills had been issued and urged farmers to contact administrators if they have questions.

"We will work with them and negotiate repayment in terms that are flexible," she said. "We don’t want to cause any undue hardship on farmers."

Mr. Bremner said he doesn’t know how many of Nova Scotia’s 1,200-1,300 producers received the bills.

The program made $1.1 billion in interim and special advance payments to producers who were hard hit by the mad cow scare in Canada. The assumption was that farmers would probably lose money because of low prices and poor markets.

However, once income calculations were completed for 2004, some farmers started getting bills.

"Two-Tier Justice"

Have you read the March 2006 issue of Reader's Digest?  Check out the "What's Outrageous Column" this month, written by the Calgary Sun's Licla Corbella.

"Canadian Mystery Down Under"

The Western Standard's Kevin Steel provides a continuation of Oil-for-Food in the April 10, 2006 edition.

Connecting the Power

The United Nation’s scandal ridden Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq drifts in and out of the news with each new Inquiry that takes place. The Australian Wheat Board is on the mat at the moment but the controversial program’s links to Canada are also unmistakable. 

In 2005, Kevin Steel of the Western Standard wrote a powerful article portraying Canadian Business connections to the OFF Program. I believe that his article bears repeating and that our readers will be blown away with these startling revelations. The Western Standard has kindly allowed us to link to the article ("The Scandal Spills North"). You are required to register on the site but registration is free and easy to do.

Click here for more information

Ontario Farmers Stage Protest on Highway 401

Canadian Press

Ontario farmers are protesting a lack of long-term aid from the provincial government.

As tractors left the farms and converged on provincial highways, Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky assured farmers their plight is a top priority for the government.

She says the government has helped them in the past and she expects there will be more help in next Thursday's budget.

Some farmers are occupying truck weigh scales on Highway 401 in Bowmanville, Oshawa and Mississauga .

Another protest was to be held today in Sarnia on a stretch of Highway 402 heading to Blue Water Bridge border crossing.

Organizer Dennis DeBot says more than 300 tractors are expected to occupy one of two lanes heading to the crossing.

Joe Hickson, a farmer from Lindsay, Ont., said about 40 tractors and other vehicles were expected at each location on Highway 401 but there were no plans to block the highway itself.

Farmers want long-term solutions, and a recent $125 million aid package from the province is inadequate, Hickson said.

"Both levels of government have admitted they need a long-term program for the agriculture industry,'' Hickson said.

"But for five years, all we've got is lip service.''

Dombrowsky said the province has done its part to help farmers and they should pressure Ottawa to come up with an aid plan.  

Still Out for Justice

Once branded criminals for selling grain without Ottawa's permission, Farmers for Justice are looking for payback

Cyril Doll - Western Standard

During the last week of November, Regina was bursting at its seams as the city of 200,000 hosted the 35th annual Canadian Western Agribition.  The promoters of the event claim that one quarter of all farmers in Canada made their way to the Queen City for the week long event, organized to promote Canada's agricultural industry.  In total, they say more than 140,000 visitors turned the turnstiles at Regina Exhibition Park - in fact the city was so packed, visitors had to truck 40 miles west down the Trans-Canada to 

Moose Jaw to find lodging.  But on the morning of November 23, away from the grandstand, the cattle shows and the Canadian Cowboys' Association's Finals Rodeo, a loosely knit group of disgruntled Saskatchewan grain farmers met at the Regina Flying Club.  Only, it wasn't to promote agriculture - but to map out a plan for taking their fight against the federal government to the next level.

For the past 10 years, 21 farmers from Saskatchewan and one from Manitoba have been in and out of courts and in and out of jail fighting the feds on charges of exporting wheat to the U.S.  The Farmers for Justice, as they call themselves, had deliberately circumvented the monopolistic powers of the Canadian Wheat Board - the Crown corporation responsible for marketing western grain.  That night in Regina, the farmers made plans to make Ottawa pay for all they had endured in their ordeal.  And on January 16, 15 farmers filed suit against the federal government at Regina's Federal Court of Canada, demanding $2 million a piece for what they claim has been malicious prosecution and abuse of power.

"Bringing down the wheat board isn't the issue; the issue is compensation," explains Esteven, Sask-area grain grower Art Mainil, of the feds.  "The knew all along it was a bogus, cooked-up charge."

Mainil's confidence is bolstered by a decision last May by a Saskatchewan appeal judge who quashed the original 1999 convictions of the 22 farmers, tossing six of the cases out completely and ordering retrials for the other 16 men.  Justice William Vancise ruled that while the farmers were charged under the Customs Act, the act does not contain any clauses requiring western farmers to get wheat board licenses to sell their grain, as prosecutors had argued.  In their statement of claim against Ottawa, the farmers state that they have possession of a document that not only supports Vancise's decision, it proves Ottawa knew that when it prosecuted the farmers.

The document, obtained via the Access to Information Act, is a copy of the minutes of a meeting that took place on June 23, 1997, between wheat board officials and bureaucrats from several federal departments, to discuss the Crown's legal strategy against the Farmers for Justice, and draft a communications strategy.

"The ... charge of exporting without a license is ... no long valid," read the minutes (the charge had been invalidated by a Manitoba court in a case against grain farmer David Sawatzky, who was tried earlier for skirting the CWB in 1995, and acquitted).  "This is problematic," the minutes report Make Hadley, then adjudications officer with Revenue Canada, as saying.  

Another charge, he notes, including a "failure to report in writing" to customs officials of their export "were added as an afterthought" and "defendants had not been given an opportunity to respond to these charges."   Concludes Hadley: "Consequently, there is now some serious question as to whether the charge will stand up to a court challenge."

For their part, the farmers insist this was not simply an act of civil disobedience.  It was also about money.  In the early 1990s, farmers could get higher prices for the grain in the U.S.  Selling to the U.S. directly, which had a much stronger dollar and would pay more for high-quality grain than the CWB's pooling system, the farmers calculated they could easily double their income.

"We were going where the dollars were and that's something eastern Canadian farmers have been allowed to do since Confederation," says Norm Colhoun, one of the convicted farmers from Lumsden, Sask. "My biggest bone of contention with the Canadian Wheat Board is that it's not a Canadian wheat board, it's a western Canadian monopoly."

Though the CWB was aware that western farmers were increasingly trucking their grain south, they couldn't physically stop them. 

"The Canadian Wheat Board is helpless to stop what industry sources say is an increasing number of illegal exports of wheat and barley into the U.S.," said Lorne Hehn, then chief commissioner of the wheat board in 1994.  "The board can no longer enforce a provision of the Canadian Wheat Board Act requiring exporters of prairie grain to get a permit from the board... We don't have a vehicle to properly enforce that law."  Hehn went to Canada Customs for help.  The national revenue minister at the time, David Anderson agreed to pitch in by issuing an order that would now require anyone trying to ship wheat or barley to the U.S. to first present to Canadian customs agents a Canadian Wheat Board licence before crossing to the U.S., or risk having their goods and vehicles seized at the border.

Vancise would later rule that Anderson's forfeiture order was not legally binding.  He also ruled that requirements to sell through the wheat board did not fall within the authority of Section 95 of the Customs Act.  That, combined with documents indicating the feds knew they likely had no case in the first place, has convinced the farmers that Ottawa prosecuted them maliciously, and owes them for all the stress and losses brought on by the trials, the lost property, legal bills, fines, and for some, the time spent in prison.

Wendy Raynard of Benson, Sask. whose husband Devin and father-in-law Don are both part of the group lawsuit, insists it's not right that farmers should have been dealt with so harshly for simply trying to sell the produce they grew.  They "only wanted to do what most consumers want to do, and this is get the most money that they can for the product they're selling," says the mother of four.  "We're in dire danger of losing everything right now."

The same can be said for the handful of Farmers for Justice outside of Saskatchewan who suffered the same hardships.  If these 15 Saskatchewan farmers win their suit, there's a good chance the other Westerners will bring a court action of their own.  As an added bonus, many are hopeful that, with the election of a Conservative government, they'll get what they were after all along: Tory Leader Stephen Harper has pledged to make membership in the CWB voluntary, permitting western growers to sell grain on their own, should they choose to op out.

What made the Farmers for Justice into criminals seven years ago could be perfectly legal soon - and after all they've been through, they can't wait.  "There's an awful lot of guys saying they want to go back down to the border," says Colhoun.

Wheat Growers enthusiastic about implementation of Marketing Choice

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers are elated that its long-term goal of marketing choice will finally be realized, following the election of a Conservative minority government. “Wheat Growers are enthusiastic about the introduction of marketing choice,” says Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, President of the Wheat Growers. “This has been a goal of our Association for many years, and we are very pleased to see that it will finally happen.”

Click here for more

BSE Detected in Alberta

OTTAWA, January 23, 2006 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an approximately six-year-old cross-bred cow born and raised in Alberta. No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems. 

This finding is not unexpected and was identified through Canada’s national surveillance program, which targets cattle at highest risk of being infected with BSE. The program has tested more than 87,000 animals since Canada’s first BSE case in 2003. 

The geographic location and age of this animal are consistent with the three domestic cases previously detected through the national BSE surveillance program and the current understanding of BSE in Canada. The clustering of these cases is examined in the epidemiological report, Canada’s Assessment of the North American BSE Cases Diagnosed from 2003 to 2005 (Part II), which is available on the CFIA’s Website. Food safety remains protected through the removal of specified risk material (SRM) from all cattle slaughtered for human food in Canada. SRM are tissues that, in infected cattle, contain the BSE agent. This measure is internationally recognized as the most effective means to protect public health from BSE.

The CFIA, working collaboratively with the producer and the Province of Alberta, has launched a comprehensive investigation into the feeding regime and storage practices employed on the farm, as well as the production and source of feeds delivered to the farm. Consistent with international standards, the CFIA will identify cattle born on the farm within 12 months before and after the affected animal, as well as offspring of the affected animal born during the last two years. Any live animals found from these groups will be segregated and tested.

Definitive conclusions regarding the source of infectivity cannot be made until the investigation is complete; however, it is probable that the source is contaminated feed. This scenario is consistent with Canada’s previous experience and that of the international community. Although the first evidence of BSE in the Canadian herd was in May 2003 and this recent animal would have become infected with the disease prior to that time, this case does support the need for Canada to continue to move towards enhancing the current feed ban. In December 2004, there was a formal call for comments on the draft regulations through Canada Gazette, which have been the subject of extensive consultations with the provinces and industry. The CFIA has completed its analysis and is prepared to provide advice to the government on next steps.

Canada has a suite of safeguards that work together to systematically limit the risks to animal and public health associated with BSE. These measures include import controls, surveillance of the national cattle herd and the removal of potentially harmful tissues from all animals slaughtered for human consumption. Of principal importance from an animal health perspective is Canada’s feed ban, which is designed to limit BSE spread and eradicate the disease over time.

Analysis of previous Canadian investigations and surveillance results to date continue to indicate that Canada’s feed ban is working as intended to effectively reduce BSE risks to animal health through a robust compliance and enforcement strategy. Our experiences related to the feed ban and finding cases born after the feed ban are in keeping with other countries. This detection is consistent with a low level of disease and does not indicate an increased risk of BSE in Canada. Based on the guidelines and certification recommendations of the World Organization for Animal Health, this finding should not affect Canada’s ability to export live animals, beef and beef products. Canada has notified its key trading partners, including the United States. Since May 2003, Canada has clearly stated the possibility of finding a small number of additional BSE cases. This international dialogue will continue as Canadian officials work closely with their international counterparts to ensure the facts and supporting science of this case are shared in an open and timely manner.

As the investigation progresses, the CFIA will provide Canadians with regular updates.  Information will be posted to the CFIA’s Website as it becomes available.

Canadian beef still safe, cattle trade unlikely to be affected, says Horner

Edmonton... Doug Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development today released the following statement on the discovery of the fourth case of BSE in Canada:

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that animal tissue collected under the Canada-Alberta BSE Surveillance Program has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Canada is still well within the controlled risk category for BSE, as recognized by the international organization for animal health. We will continue to use our enhanced surveillance program to assist us as we move to eradicate BSE. 

As the CFIA stated, there is no threat to human health from this additional case of BSE. No part of the animal entered either the human food or animal feed chain. The most effective way of ensuring food safety – a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban and the removal of specified risk materials. This is already being done within Canada.

Let me stress that finding additional cases of BSE is not unexpected. In fact, it is understood that testing for BSE could result in the discovery of more cases of the disease – which is part of the reason that the World Organization for Animal Health changed the rules around BSE risk categories. This rule change was aimed at recognizing the work done in countries like Canada, Japan and the U.S. that have had indigenous cases of BSE, but also have thorough education, reporting and eradication programs aimed at eliminating the disease from their cattle herds.

That said, we do not expect this additional case to affect our trade with other countries, who continue to recognize the steps taken by both the U.S. and Canada to eliminate this disease from the North American herd.

Our international trading partners and domestic consumers also know that North American beef remains the safest in the world. Not only do our producers and processors use safe, world-class practices throughout the value-chain, but highest risk materials – brains, spinal cords and so on – are also removed from the final product. We will continue to work closely with our industry and the CFIA to further improve these risk mitigation measures.

On a final note, I would like to commend the CFIA working in partnership with Alberta to diligently prevent, discover and eliminate foreign animal disease."

Questions and Answers
BSE Case 4 – Confirmed Jan. 22, 2006

The Investigation

How was the animal detected?

The owner consulted a veterinarian after the animal showed progressive signs of illness. The clinical signs that were observed were consistent with the high risk categories of animals targeted under the national BSE surveillance program. For this reason the animal was sampled and tested.

Did any part of the cow enter the animal feed system?

No part of the animal entered the animal feed system. The animal was humanely euthanized, and its carcass has been turned over to the CFIA Lethbridge laboratory.

Has the age of the animal been determined?

Yes, the animal is approximately 6 years old (born April 15, 2000).

Was the animal a beef or a dairy breed?

The animal was a cross-bred brood cow that resided on a dairy farm.

Has the CFIA begun an investigation?

Yes. The CFIA has already identified the animal’s farm of origin, and work is underway to trace recently born offspring of the affected cow and cattle born on the farm of origin within a year of the affected animal. A quarantine has been placed on animals on the farm of origin. As the investigation progresses, additional quarantines may be necessary.

The CFIA is also investigating factors pertinent to how this animal became infected, including feeding practices and purchases on the farm of origin. However, given the age of the animal, it may not be possible to definitively identify a particular feed source as the origin of infection. As was done during previous BSE investigations, the CFIA will keep Canadians informed of the latest information with regular updates. Information regarding the farm of origin and ownership of the animal cannot be released due to privacy laws.

What was found with respect to the recently born offspring of the affected cow?

Two calves birthed by the index cow are of interest to this investigation. A seven-month old calf remains on the index premises. It will be humanely euthanized and incinerated. A second calf born less than two years ago is being traced.

Is there any evidence to suggest that this was an imported animal?

No. The animal was born and raised on a farm in Alberta.

How long will the investigation take?

The investigation is the highest priority for the CFIA, however, it is difficult to predict with any certainty how long the investigation will take. The CFIA will conduct a comprehensive and thorough epidemiological investigation that includes both tracing the animal’s history and examining how and what the animal was fed early in its life. It is critical that we track all possible avenues and perform a thorough analysis.

Does the CFIA know how many animals will need to be depopulated during this investigation?

Not at this time. BSE is not a contagious disease, meaning it is not transmitted to one animal from another through casual contact. The Agency is tracing two categories of animals: recently born offspring of the affected animal and cattle born on the same farm within a year of the affected animal. The availability of animal identification information and other records will minimize the number of animals that will be subject to further actions. It is important to understand that BSE is not a contagious disease spread between cattle through direct contact. 

What are the next steps?

As a priority, the CFIA is conducting an epidemiological investigation and this work is proceeding as quickly as possible.

The CFIA is also conducting a feed investigation to examine what the affected animal was fed early in its life, when infection was most likely to have occurred.

Food Safety

Does this animal pose any risk to food safety?

No. No part of the animal entered the human food supply. The animal was humanely euthanized and its carcass turned over to the CFIA laboratory in Lethbridge.

Specified risk material—those tissues in which the BSE agent concentrates in affected animals—are removed from every cow slaughtered for human consumption. Although unlikely, even if this animal had gone undetected and been slaughtered, the system is designed to prevent potentially harmful tissues from entering the food system.

Will the CFIA revise its BSE safeguards based on this case?

Since the discovery of Canada’s first case of BSE in 2003, a number of measures have been put in place to enhance safeguards. The CFIA will be making recommendations to the incoming government on the removal of specified risk material from the feed chain based on enhancements to the feed ban which were published in Canada Gazette I in 2004. Beyond these impending changes, there are no plans to revise Canada’s BSE safeguards at this time. The BSE safeguards that currently exist will lead to the eradication of BSE over time, and the recently updated BSE import policy will continue to address risk of further re-entry of the disease from other countries. The safety of our food remains protected by the removal of specified risk material from all animals slaughtered for human consumption. This measure is internationally recognized as the most effective way to protect human health from BSE.

This animal was a brood cow on a dairy farm. Is there a risk of BSE being transmitted through milk?

The cow’s milk did not enter the human food chain. Canadians can also be confident in the safety of milk because current scientific research from around the world indicates that BSE is not transmitted through cow's milk, even if the milk comes from a cow with BSE. BSE infectivity is concentrated in other parts of the cow not associated with milk. Milk and milk products, are, therefore, considered safe by Health Canada and international health agencies such as the World Health Organization.

Feed Ban

This animal was born after the feed ban. How did it become infected?

BSE occurs as a result of dietary exposure to feedstuffs containing the BSE agent. Research and field experience in the UK have shown that the majority of animals become infected early in life, usually within the first year. At this point in the investigation it is too early to say when or how the feed may have been contaminated with the BSE agent. CFIA’s investigation will focus on this question taking into account the farm’s feed purchase and use practices.

Does this mean that the feed ban is allowing BSE to spread significantly?

No. BSE safeguards, including the feed ban are controlling opportunities for recycling BSE and will lead to eradication over time. This does not preclude the occurrence of new cases born after implementation of the feed ban, as demonstrated by international experience. The initial ban in the UK, which was similar in design to Canada’s, put their epidemic into dramatic decline.

With Canada’s current feed ban, eradication could take many years. During that period, the detection of some additional cases born after the ban would be expected and consistent with international experience. Recently, CFIA has published proposed regulatory amendments that would shorten the timeframe required for the elimination of BSE from our national herd. We are prepared to make a recommendation to the new Government.

How is the feed ban enforced?

The ban is implemented through a series of regulated process controls designed to keep protein by-products that may contain BSE infectivity out of feeds which may be fed to cattle or other susceptible species. Industry compliance is enforced through routine inspections of facilities, operating practices and production records with a particular focus on rendering plants and feed mills. The feed ban review published in March 2005 (available on the CFIA web site) has documented the history and effectiveness of these measures. 

Have other countries found cases of BSE born after the implementation of feed bans?

Yes. Most countries that have confirmed cases of BSE and implemented feed bans have found cases born after feed controls had been put in place. For example, there have been over 100 such cases in Great Britain since its feed ban was revised in 1996. Despite the occurrence of these cases the feed bans are working and feed controls remain key to eradicating this disease. The annual number of U.K. cases peaked in 1992 at 37,280 (an average of 102 cases per day) and had declined to 343 in calendar year 2004. The effectiveness of feed controls in arresting the spread of this disease, despite differences that may exist between countries with respect to design and implementation, has been clearly demonstrated.

BSE in Canada

Does this case mean that the BSE situation in Canada is becoming worse?

No. If the current feed ban was not doing its job and the disease was amplifying, the number of cases detected through our aggressive surveillance program would be much higher. This program is directed at the highest risk animals and is based on guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

International Trading Partners

How will Canada’s trading partners react to this finding?

Because this detection is within the realm of the expected on the basis of science, it does not change Canada's risk profile. Therefore, there is no basis for Canada's trading partners to modify their treatment of Canadian exports or to slow the pace of re-opening markets. CFIA, AAFC, ITCan and other government departments will continue to work together to press this case.

Will this finding affect Canada’s minimal Risk Status

No. In 2005, The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) developed a new BSE country categorization system. This system acknowledges the current scientific literature and recognizes that the measures taken by a country to mitigate BSE risk are not dependent on the incidence of the disease. Nonetheless, Canada’s previous categorization as a minimum risk country would not have been affected by this latest finding which would have allowed up to two cases per million adult cattle per year.

Should domestic and international consumers be concerned about consuming Canadian beef?

This finding does not indicate an increased risk to food safety and does not change our assessment regarding the safety of the Canadian food supply. With increased surveillance, it was fully expected that some additional cases of BSE would be discovered. Canadian and International consumers can be confident in the safety of Canadian beef and dairy products for the following reasons:

First and foremost, the regulatory requirement for the removal of all specified risk material (SRM) from carcasses slaughtered for human consumption. Instituted in July 2003, SRM removal is considered the most important public health protection measure that could be taken. SRM are tissues that, in infected cattle, contain the BSE agent. This measure is internationally recognized as the most effective means to protect public health from BSE. 

Second, animals presented for slaughter at all federally inspected facilities are subjected to pre and post slaughter inspections before being declared fit for human consumption.

Third, current scientific research indicates that BSE is not transmitted through muscle meat or from cow's milk, even if the milk comes from a cow with BSE. Therefore, muscle meat, milk and milk products, are considered safe.

What are we doing to assure foreign markets that Canadian beef poses no risk?

In negotiations with trading partners, Canada has been very open about the prospect of finding more BSE. Canadian animal health officials have asked trading partners to base their decisions on the standards of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). These standards clearly state that BSE should not significantly impair trade where proper safeguards are in place, as is the case in Canada. We remain confident that science, as applied through international standards and our own bilateral arrangements, will serve to leave undisturbed our progress bilaterally and discussions will continue to proceed as planned.

Rebel Canadian farmers claim a victory over wheat board, promise lawsuits

Blake Nicholson
Canadian Press

September 4, 2005

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Canadian farmers who paid a heavy price for hauling grain into North Dakota and Montana a decade ago in defiance of their country's grain marketing rules say a court victory opens the door for hundreds of legal attacks on their government.

For Manitoba farmer Andy McMechan, the opportunity has been a long time in coming.

"I have no intention of spending 155 days of my life in jail and letting the real criminal get away," he said. "They think they're untouchable."

The Canadian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly over wheat and barley exports from western Canada, defends its rules as protecting the country's share of the world market and guaranteeing farmers the best price. It says the vast majority of farmers north of the border support the agency, which pools farmers' grain before selling it.

At the heart of the matter is a long-running dispute between Farmers for Justice, a loose-knit group of several hundred farmers who want the freedom to market their own grain themselves, and the Wheat Board, which considers the group's members renegades and troublemakers.

In the mid-1990s, hundreds of farmers began selling grain at country elevators in the Upper Midwest without the required export permit from the Wheat Board, saying U.S. elevators gave a better price than the board. Dozens of farmers were arrested, jailed and fined. Court cases have lingered for years.

McMechan, the leader of the group, spent five months in jail, was fined a total of $120,000 and was ordered to surrender his tractor, though he says it still sits on his farm. When McMechan was in jail, Farmers for Justice unsuccessfully asked the human rights group Amnesty International to declare him a political prisoner.

"(The Wheat Board) tried to make us look like we were a bunch of terrorists," McMechan said. "There was never one minute of violence at the border."

Last May, a judge in Regina, Saskatchewan overturned the convictions of six farmers who took their convictions for illegally exporting grain all the way through Canada's court appeals system. Sixteen other armers were granted new trials.

"Finally, we get a little justice," McMechan said.

Geoff Dufour, a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, attorney who represented about a dozen of the farmers, said the judge's decision rested on a technicality: that Canada Customs officials at the border had no authority to demand Wheat Board export permits from the farmers.

He said other convicted farmers might be able to seek pardons because of the ruling. However, "This does not allow farmers ... to transport wheat and barley as they will without the Wheat Board," Dufour said. "We're not dealing here with an ongoing mischief. There are no doors opened here."

McMechan does see a door: wrongful conviction lawsuits against the Canadian government. He said at least one lawsuit is in the works, and he expects many more.

"This will go on for another 10 years," he said. "Once we get this first lawsuit, it's my intent to expose it to other farmers, what's happened here, and also expose it to the media."

Gord Gilmour, a spokesman for the Wheat Board, said the farmers' court victory came only because they were charged under the wrong law.

"If they're saying that they will (sue the government), that's up to them," he said. "It has no effect on the nature of what the Canadian Wheat Board does."

Gilmour said the agency has given farmers more grain payment options in recent years, though not as a result of any Farmers for Justice efforts.

"We're frankly offering the farmers what they indicated they wanted," he said. "We provided choices for farmers, and farmers seem to be responding positively."

McMechan acknowledges that the views of Farmers for Justice are not shared by many farmers. The group's Web site contains a 1995 letter from an angry farmer to Canada's ministers of justice and agriculture, calling Farmers for Justice members "criminals" and saying their actions "border on treason."

"I had a lot of calls here ... people saying 'you're going to get shot,"' McMechan said.

He regrets none of his civil disobedience and says he is as committed as ever to seeking change.

"The myth that Canada can't operate without the Canadian Wheat Board is ludicrous," he said.

Jim Diepolder, a North Dakota farmer who lives near the Canadian border, led protests against Wheat Board grain shipments to the United States in the 1990s. He said North Dakota farmers have stayed out of the dispute between Farmers for Justice and the Wheat Board.

"It's kind of an internal problem," he said. "The Wheat Board is their creature, their Frankenstein."

Diepolder recalled meeting some Farmers for Justice members years ago at the border, when he and a handful of other North Dakota farmers were trying to haul grain into Canada to prove Canada's unlimited access to the U.S. market was unfair.

"It really hasn't been remedied," Diepolder said.

Farmers for Justice draws strength from efforts south of the border to weaken the Wheat Board. Tariffs currently are being assessed on Canadian spring wheat shipments to the United States because of a trade complaint initiated by the North Dakota Wheat Commission, U.S. Durum Growers Association and Durum Growers Trade Action Committee. The complaint was funded by checkoff tax money farmers pay when they sell grain.

"The U.S. has done way more damage to the Canadian Wheat Board ... than all the farmer associations in western Canada have done," McMechan said. "We hope that U.S. associations realize that we support them.

"When we sold our grain down there, we helped fund their challenges," he said with a laugh.