NFU wants CWB returned to farmers’ control

Now farmers have to find ways not to be gouged by grain companies

Canadian farmers in the western provinces want to have Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) assets returned to their control and they are working hard to garner support from provincial leaders.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is putting a major effort to get the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to help return CWB assets to farmers. Each premier has received the letter containing their request on the matter says Doug Scott, NFU regional co-ordinator for Alberta.

NFU posted its letter to Premier Greg Selinger of Manitoba on its website, which urges western province leaders to express the intent to buy CWB assets and put control into famers’ hands.

“Giving farmers back some of their marketing power should help ensure that the multibillion dollar loss to the prairie economy that occurred last year will not happen again,” the letter states.

The letters were sent Dec. 4 to each premier and Scott says they hope to hear a response of some kind. The decision to send the letters came out of a recent NFU convention.

“A lot of farmers are really pissed off about what’s going on in this whole destruction of the CWB,” said Scott. “We were never given the opportunity to vote.”

He feels Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Gerry Ritz, has done a disservice to groups like the NFU. Scott says Ritz did not listen to requests and would discredit farmers’ groups if they disagreed with him.

“We have no power left. Zero . . . everything that seems to be done in ag policy these days seems to favour agri-business,” stated Scott.

Now farmers have to find ways not to be gouged by grain companies, he added. Scott says when the CWB was dismantled, farmers were left to their own devices and many competitive options were lost because of it, which has hurt the overall economy.

“The grain companies took a good 40 per cent of the value of the wheat farmers produced last year by charging excess basis on every backlogged tonne. Now Minister Ritz is ready to give one of these grain companies 100 per cent of the CWB’s assets so they can keep on taking more than their fair share from us,” said Matt Gehl, NFU member in Saskatchewan in a press release.

“It’s entirely up to them. There’s no price transparency. We have no idea what they’re selling it for,” stated Scott. “We just know we’re getting hosed.”

He says the NFU wants to bring control back to farmers but feels Minister Ritz has already made up his mind. Despite saying there was a short-list of companies to take over CWB, recent rumors surfaced that Ritz intended to sell the CWB to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a Chicago-based global food processing company.

But the rumored deal would see ADM take ownership of CWB without paying for the acquisition in return for a promise to invest in the company.

Scott said Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Pat Martin took time during question period to ask if Ritz had “lost his freaking mind.”

His biggest concern over dealing with an American company is that money is not being invested in Canada.

The governing board on the CWB was appointed by Ritz, which is another point of contention for farmers groups. Determining what the CWB is in terms of its legal and commercial status is difficult as financial details have not been made public for the last two years, he added.