Farmers for economic freedom
Updates from the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network and the Canadian Farmers for Justice. Several of the items appearing here originally appeared in an email list operated by Dwayne Leslie at http://www3.mb.sympatico.ca/~dleslie/aglinks.htm
NCC puts anti-wheat monopoly billboard near Goodale's Regina office
The National Citizens' Coalition took its anti-wheat monopoly crusade right to Wheat Board Minister Ralph Goodale's doorstep.
"We have put up a billboard (13 KB) near Goodale's Regina constituency office with a blunt message," said NCC president Stephen Harper on June 8.
The billboard says "End the Wheat Board Monopoly, Goodale, Selling Wheat Shouldn't be A Crime."
To emphasize the point, the o's in the word "Goodale" were portrayed as handcuffs.
"We are not trying to be subtle," said Harper. "We want to remind Goodale when he returns to his riding that farmers in this country are going to jail simply because they market their own crops."
The NCC says it's time that Goodale did the right thing and gave western farmers a choice.
"We are speaking for western farmers who are fed up with the wheat monopoly," said Harper. "They just want a basic freedom restored to them and they are saying Goodale's Bill C-4 won't settle the issue."
Harper says the NCC may expand its billboard campaign to other cities as part of its ongoing efforts to end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.
A window of opportunity opens for dual-marketers
By Buck Spencer
Recently, a number of Prairie Centre directors met with representatives of the Canadian Cattlemens Association (CCA) to discuss the implications of the CCAs presentation to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. This was the presentation where the CCA had told the Senators it was comfortable with the CWB, and that its position on the matter was the same as the Saskatchewan Wheat Pools. They went on to say that they felt that the CWB acted in the public good by ensuring an abundant barley supply for the cattle industry. The fact that downward pressure is put on Canadian feed barley prices by the CWB (which at times has given cattle producers a subsidy paid by barley farmers of as much as $60 per head) was not mentioned.
Although some cattlemen privately say they like the CWB, this was the first time a cattle organization had said it publicly. The subsequent outrage expressed by barley farmers and cattlemen alike forced the CCA to make a follow-up statement about a week after the Senate hearings, claiming that it did support a dual-marketing system for barley. Yet, oddly enough, it did not withdraw the brief it had presented nor retract any of its previous statements.
It was only a few weeks prior to these events that several farm leaders had come to the conclusion that because Ralph Goodale has ignored the obvious wishes of western farmers on grain marketing, and because he deliberately jimmied the vote on dual barley marketing, the next stage in the fight would be to enlist allies from both inside and outside of Canada who would assist in the drive for marketing choice on barley. The first and most obvious ally would be the Canadian and U.S. cattle industry.
But perhaps not the CCA. At the meeting with CCA representatives, the CCA agreed that 54% of fat cattle were exported directly to the U.S. (no government export monopoly) and admitted that due to a farmers inability to export, cattlemen were sometimes able to source barley well below world prices. They even acknowledged that this cheap feedgrain mechanism had helped create the burgeoning western cattle industry. But when it came to publicly supporting an effort to end the CWB export monopoly on barley and leveling the playing field for grain prices between Canadian and U.S. barleygrowers, the CCA refused.
Their decision seemed to be motivated in part by a keen awareness of their vulnerability to trade action if large numbers of U.S. cattle producers begin to understand how the system works. Yet they seemed oblivious to the fact that because of their Senate presentation they had already drawn international attention to the issue and the clock is ticking.
Graingrowers in support of a dual market havent missed it though. The CCA has neatly laid the groundwork to line up graingrowers, Canadian cattlemen and the U.S. cattle industry against the CWBs monopoly on barley exports. It would be a win-win-win scenario: Most graingrowers are not interested in subsidizing feed barley prices for cattlemen; most Canadian cattlemen are not interested in destabilizing the beef industry with a trade war; and most U.S. cattlemen simply want a level playing field for accessing Canadian barley markets.
All three concerns can be addressed simply by removing the export monopoly on barley. Instead of having the U.S. trade guns aimed at Canadian beef, they can easily be repositioned on the barley export monopoly, where they should be. Its simply a matter of continuing what the CCA started explaining to the Americans how the Canadian system works.
Spencer is the former president of the Western Barley Growers Association, and is the current vice-president of the Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture, Inc. The Prairie Centre is a non-profit, non-partisan member organization, supported by over 10 000 farmers and ranchers in the prairie region. The purpose of the Prairie Centre is to promote greater freedom for the individual and to carry out an educational role with respect to wealth creation and responsible public policy.
Parliament passes Canada Wheat Board changes
Parliament gave final approval July 11 to legislation which allows the Canadian Wheat Board to make some cash purchases of wheat on the spot market.
The changes to the board's act will also allow the federal minister responsible for wheat to allow farmers to vote on adding canola or other non-board commodities to its marketing monopoly, or to remove any commodities from its monopoly.
John Embury, spokesman for Minister Ralph Goodale, said the House of Commons approved a Senate amendment on the so-called inclusion/exclusion clause to clarify how a vote on adding or taking away commodities would be triggered.
The original language had provided for the minister calling a vote if a producers' group went to the board and asked for it, and the board decided to ask the minister for a vote, Embury said.
"There was concern amongst canola growers that...the National Farmers' Union can force it (a vote)," he said. Concern was also expressed that any small group banding together could force a vote.
He said the bill was then simplified to refer only to the minister holding a vote of the producers of that grain -- not farmers in general, and not referring to when he had to call a vote. Precise regulations have not been drawn up, but Goodale told reporters he was leaning towards one-farmer-one-vote, rather than a weighted vote according to volume or production.
Embury said the change meant that a vote would be called only if there was a large amount of pressure to change the monopoly, for example the call earlier to get the board out of barley. A vote on that failed in 1997.
The bill provides for the election of two-thirds of the CWB commissioners. Embury said Goodale intended to have farmers vote on the commissioners approximately mid-October to early November, to have them in place by the end of 1998.
Another Senate amendment accepted by the Commons was to place a limit on a new Contingency Fund that the CWB will have. Embury said Goodale was inclined to accept a C$30 million limit on the fund, which would help cover possible losses, and to strictly limit the uses of the fund.
The losses might arise through new activity the board would now be able to undertake, for example in cash trading, adjustments for prices and what is technically called "early pool cash-outs."
Cash-outs, a new provision, would allow farmers to get money for their grain more quickly than if they waited until the end-of-year adjustments to initial prices were made. This would take a risk as to the price, one way or the other.
The Road to Nowhere
By Craig Docksteader
Ralph Goodale is a happy camper. And probably relieved. After more than three years of intensive debate and analysis, the Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) feels he has finally succeeded in bringing reform to the Board.
On more than one occasion it looked like he was going to be a casualty in the process, caught between two polarized positions concerning the role of the CWB. On the one hand, there was the pro-status quo, pro-monopoly gang, and on the other, those who want marketing options. Unlike most public policy issues, where politicians press both sides for compromise and come out somewhere in the middle, there is no middle ground on the CWB issue. Either you want the Board to retain its monopoly, or you dont.
Thus Goodales dilemma: No matter which way he went on the issue, a significant contingent of prairie farmers would find the outcome unacceptable and oppose it fiercely. Normally, such a situation wouldnt pose a problem. A person simply examines the issues carefully and does what is right whether it is popular or not. But in politics it doesnt work that way. Politics is about keeping people happy and getting re-elected, not about making the right decisions and exercising leadership even when it hurts.
Thats why, from a politicians viewpoint, the recently passed Act to Amend the CWB Act (Bill C-4) is a clever piece of work. Its designed to give the appearance of passing control of the CWB to farmers. While solving nothing, Goodale can claim to have solved everything. Bill C-4 will make the CWB more democratic, more accountable and more flexible, and it will empower prairie farmers with more control over their wheat and barley marketing agency than ever before in history, said Goodale in a press release. He seems genuinely excited about it all.
But while Goodale is patting himself on the back, someone should tap him on the shoulder and point out the fact that few others are happy with the new and improved CWB Act. While it may look good from a politicians viewpoint, most producers are well aware that the issue of the CWBs monopoly has not gone away and will not go away. Whether pro-monopoly or pro-dual marketing, the only thing producers have been assured of is that after more than three years of considerable debate, analysis, lobbying, discussion, media stunts, publications, demonstrations, and even altercations, nothing has been resolved.
An elected board of directors means the politicization of the board will get worse, not better. It means that instead of being over, the real battles between farmers havent even begun. While Goodale is gloating, many producers are tired of it all and would like to get back to farming. Bill C-4 guarantees they wont be able to for some time to come.
When you consider that this whole exercise began because many farmers were calling for marketing options, it shows you how far Minister Goodales leadership has brought us. He responded to the call for options by introducing Bill C-4 with the now famous exclusion clause, which provided a mechanism to see grains brought out from under the monopoly. But, when the pro-monopoly segment opposed the clause, he added the inclusion clause. But then no-one was happy so he took them both out. That brought us right back to where we started. Now Bill C-4 doesnt even allow the elected board of directors to implement marketing options if they unanimously agreed to. In order to see change, Parliament will have to pass another Act, and the merry-go-round will start all over again.
Sort of leaves you with the feeling that since Goodales been at the wheel weve been on the road to nowhere.
Craig Docksteader is Coordinator with the Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture, Inc. Where Do We Go From Here is a feature service of the Prairie Centre.
Watchdog bites Ontario wheat market
Wheat board chairman, Ken Nixon says the commission found no factual evidence of harm that would warrant overturning the board's policy. The commission says their decision will stand until "an acceptable solution is found".
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