January 22, 2012

Fact sheet: Save the Canadian Wheat Board!

Farmers protesting in Ottawa

An RY Exclusive

More than 60,000 Western Canadian farmers and their Wheat Board are under the most serious attack in history.1 

The federal government is planning to end the Canadian Wheat Board's (CWB) single desk authority effective August 1, 2012, in defiance of existing legislation that requires a farmer vote before making any changes to the CWB's single desk.

Because of trade deals such as NAFTA, if the CWB's single desk is eliminated, it will be very difficult to reinstate it later. The fight to save the Canadian Wheat Board is a broader fight to save the family farm across Canada.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board?

·         The Canadian Wheat Board is a wheat and barley marketing agency for western Canadian farmers.

  • Farmers pay for its operations and run it through a majority of farmer-elected directors (ten are elected and five are appointed by the government).
  • There is no cost to the government. All it requires to function is legislation that grants it the authority to market wheat and barley through a single desk.
  • The CWB markets from $5-8.5 billion a year in wheat and barley.
  • It is the largest farmer‑run marketing board in Canada and perhaps the world.

What is a single-desk?

      ·         A single desk means that buyers of western Canadian milling wheat and malting barley must go through the Canadian Wheat Board.
·         By being the single source for western wheat and barley, the board is able to capture higher prices for farmers in the global and domestic market place.
·         All returns go directly to farmers with the exception of a small operating fee.

Why is the wheat board important?

·         In an industry fraught with the challenges of unpredictable weather, volatile prices and huge economic powers bent on extracting all they can from farmers, the Canadian Wheat Board allows prairie farmers some form of economic justice for the fruits of their labour.
·         The Wheat Board gives farmers market power in an international grain trade dominated by a handful of giant multinational grain companies.
·         The majority of farms in Canada are still family farms, under constant pressure from both monopoly suppliers and marketers, except where protected by marketing boards.
·         The CWB, which works for large and small farmers, has unchallenged research that it provides a net benefit of $500 million per year compared to the "open market."
·         Without the CWB, the earnings of smaller family farms will be more vulnerable to the monopoly practices of grain corporations whose only motive is profit.
·         Without the CWB, Thousands of family farms will be wiped out.

Why are the Harper Tories doing this?

Going back further in history, it was the dream of the Conservative Party to colonize Western Canada with farmers after cleansing the land of its original owners. The farmers and workers of Western Canada have always been looked at as a source of profit for the industrialists in Ontario who backed the Conservative's National Dream. 

The plan to destroy the single desk, which Harper and Ritz are framing as marketing choice and freedom, will transfer these benefits and funds to some of the richest corporations of the world.

·         Today, Harper is acting for the giant U.S. grain corporations, not the Ontario industrialists.
·         Ending the CWB would be a monumental sellout to the giant, mainly U.S.‑owned corporations that dominate the global grain trade.
·         It would also rid the Conservatives of a democratic group of farmers who could be part of the effort to build a more just society in Western Canada.
·         Follow the money: as farmers lose power, the transnational grain companies gain access to cheaper grain.
·         Transnational grain companies like Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Viterra will capture the premiums for themselves and likely dilute the quality of Canadian grain as we have seen in Australia in the years following the disbanding of the Australian Wheat Board in 2006.
·         For the Harper Tories, profits for big corporations trump the laws of Canada and the interests of prairie farmers every time.

Attack on democracy

Since taking office in 2006, the Conservatives have tried a wide range of tactics to eliminate the CWB or remove its single-desk authority. But CWB elections have consistently resulted in a majority of single-desk supporters, despite government tricks such as removing voting rights for many farmers. 

·         The Wheat Board is governed by a 15-member board of directors, ten of whom are elected by Prairie farmers, with another five appointed by Ottawa;
·         Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, prohibits any changes to the marketing of grain in Western Canada unless supported by a producer vote,
·         The Tories have said they will not follow this rule and the supreme court has said they must;
·         On Oct. 17, 2006, in the middle of the CWB election, Strahl ordered the removal of 36 percent of Western Canada grain growers (16,269 farmers) from the list of eligible voters: victims of flood, drought, or bad harvest weather, and farmers who were in the middle of a crop rotation, or still had crops in the bin. Even so, farmers returned pro-CWB directors in four out of five districts;
·         The CWB held a plebiscite of its own to provide an opportunity for farmers to express their preference on the single desk question. Results were announced on September 12 and showed that a clear majority of farmers support the single desk;
·         Despite a December Federal Court judge ruling that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by making changes without holding a plebiscite for producers, the Tories will go ahead with Wheat board destruction.

Read More: http://www.nfu.ca/cwb/2011-save_CWB.pdf


Terry Boem, ‘In defence of the Canadian Wheat Board’ Briarpatch Magazine, Sept. 1st 2011; 

National Farmer’s Union, ‘Saving the Wheat Board: information, resources and campaign material,’ http://www.nfu.ca/cwb.html

Manitoba Committee, Communist Party of Canada, ‘Act now to save the wheat board,’ October 28, 2011; 

PV Vancouver Bureau, ‘Tories prepaire to destroy Wheat Board,’ People’s Voice Newspaper July 11th 2011; 

D. Rankin, ‘My Canada includes the wheat board,’ People’s Voice Newspaper Sept 1st 2011.

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