Canadian Farmers for Justice Updates

web posted August 1997

Farmers postpone protest

A protest organized by the Canadian Farmers for Justice and set for July 15, one that would have saw hundreds of farmers cross the Canada-U.S. border, was postponed.

Dan Creighton of Farmers for Justice said Friday the event planned for Portal, Sask., has been postponed until he can find out why several farmers pleaded guilty to charges they faced following a similar protest last year.

Seven of the 11 farmers pleaded guilty in provincial court in Brandon, Man., after they were charged with trucking grain into the U.S. without obtaining wheat board export permits.

Five pleaded guilty to failing to provide a permit and to removing seized vehicles from Customs, while the other pleaded guilty to customs-related charges. The others pleaded not guilty.

Creighton states that the Crown Prosecutor changed the charge of failing to report a Canadian Wheat Board Export licence in writing at the time of the reading of the charge to the accused farmers and that they were threatened with fines of up to $300 000 if they didn't plead guilty.

The person acting as their lawyer then advised them to plead guilty, Creighton said in a statement - a development that is being investigated, group spokesman Bob Shaw said.

"There are some problems there with the legal counsel of those people that pleaded guilty and some dissatisfaction among those people that some of them kind of feel they were coerced into what happened," he said.

"Due to those factors, they've decided to hold off and get it sorted out."

Creighton said Farmers for Justice has requested three times (reported in last month's CFFJ Updates) that Customs provide a copy of the regulation showing that a Canadian Wheat Board export licence is required to transport grain into the U.S.

"(Neither) Customs nor the Crown have provided this answer, leaving the farmers baffled as to how and why the several farmers were advised to enter a guilty plea."

The CFFJ is also excited about the provisions contained in the World Trade Agreement now in effect in Canada and the United States which may have already brought about the results that they are seeking.

"Perhaps the reason that the Crown adjourned the sentencing of the several accused farmers until November 7 will shed some light on the government's intentions as to how they intend to adjust to the World Trade Agreement," stated Alberta farmer Jim Ness.

Profits from the protest would have been donated to charity.

The CFFJ says that some form of protest will occur before harvest.

CFFJ releases study -- Canadian system fails to put dollars in farmer's pockets

"If a Canadian farmer truly owned his grain and could sell it to the highest bidder he would receive far more money than he receives now when his wheat and barley is forcibly confiscated by the Federal government." That is the conclusion of study released by the CFFJ.

Even if a farmer somehow wold all his crop at the lowest possible world price on an open market, he would still be paid substantially more. If he or she marketed in a truly orderly fashion and sold 1/12th of his or her grain each month, he would beat the Canada Wheat Board's price by 26 per cent or $1.14 per bushel, Durum price by 18 per cent or 99-cents a bushel, Feed price by 58 per cent or $1.15 per bushel, and Malt Barley price by 5 per cent or 19-cents a bushel. The speculators at the CWB are obviously not marketing in an orderly manner but have sold the bulk of the grain during lowest prices. It would appear that either they were instructed to stop selling when prices are high, like last summer, or they wrongly expected prices to increase.


The Wild Oats newsletter reports that average North Dakota elevator bids for 14 per cent Dark
Northern Spring Wheat for the past crop year was approximately $5.48 (CDN). Meanwhile the CWB's
estimated price for #1 wheat is $4.30 to the farmer. That's a $1.18 a bushel difference, or a 32 per cent
confiscation index. And don't forget their higher yielding varieties and our interest and storage
costs.


The comparison prices used in the study are world market prices at U.S. elevators. There are no subsidies included. The information is readily available to anyone on sources such as DTN or GLOBALINK, unlike the secret data used by the Wheat Board's hired economists in their discredited $100 000 study. This study is not about spin and obfuscation, but about facts and realities faced by real people.

Other factors make the gap even wider for Canadian farmers:

  1. U.S. varieties will yield 5 to 10 per cent higher, and even though they bring more money, are supposedly inferior to ours. Because of lower yields, our production cost per bushel is much higher. We need higher, not lower, prices to pay for the costs of our legendary quality.
  2. These prices only reflect the top grades. It is much more difficult to achieve these grades in Canada than under the U.S. grading system. A large portion is often sold at huge discounts at these prices, widening the disadvantage further for the captive Canadian. For example, only 15 per cent of Canadian barley makes malting grades as opposed to over 50 per cent of U.S. barley that is harvested.
  3. Canadian farmers must incur higher carrying costs because of our command quota systems which backs the grain up onto the farms at the farmer's expense, and because the federal government only pays a deposit when the grain is confiscated, withholding much of the money for up to 17 months. The U.S. prices represent payment in full at time of delivery.
  4. Also included in the study is a summary of the current forward pricing or hedging bids available to farmers outside the CWB's purchasing monopoly area. These are compared to the CWB's Pool Return Outlooks, which are only an educated guess. The inability to hedge and financially plan a business is a huge cost to prairie farmers. Management tools are simply not available, leaving farmers vulnerable to tremendous unpredictability and insecurity.

The prices in this study represent the bids which would be available to Canadian farmers anywhere across the prairie region from a host of competing companies in a voluntary system, rather than one based on forced confiscation of private property.

Farmer arrested for crossing border by RCMP

Canadian Farmers for Justice member Dave Bryan of Central Butte was arrested July 17 on his way back into Canada. The reason for the arrest was he allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign at North Portal, Saskatchewan. The RCMP have also charged him with obstruction of justice and assault with a weapon (i.e. his truck). In a bizarre twist, Bryan was transported 1 000km to a Winnipeg jail to await a court appearance.

According to the CFFJ, Bryan drove past the border guards approximately 1 or two mph.

Bryan had a court appearance the next day and told the judge he was very likely to keep selling his own product and if that made him a dangerous criminal, perhaps he had better be locked away.

Bryan cross into the United States the day before with a truckload of his grain. Customs officials tried to prevent a Canadian citizen from leaving the country.

Bryan passionately believes in the right of farmers in Western Canada to market their own grain. On his own, he is taking on the Liberal government which has been treating the West like a colonial backwater.

Bryan now joins the "Honour Roll" of four farmers who've been in jails fighting the Canada Wheat Board. Good luck Dave!

Crown admits Wheat Board not for high prices or for farmers

In recent arguments before the Manitoba Appeals Court, hearing a negligence suit brought against the Canada Wheat Board by Manitoba Reform MP and farmer Jake Hoeppner, a lawyer from the federal Department of Justice admitted that the board has no legal obligation to maximize returns for farmers, and that farmers have no means and no right to hold them accountable for such policies.

"We couldn't believe our ears. The entire Canadian public needs to be aware of the arguments made by the Crown attorney to stop this lawsuit," says CFFJ member Bill Cairns of Tilston, Manitoba. "These statements, if true, fly in the face of a contrived impression that the Wheat Board is 'the farmer's marketing agency', as it claims. That is a facade."

Hoeppner's law suit alleges that Western Canada's 1993 feed wheat crop, about half the wheat grown that year, was knowingly and negligently undersold, largely to companies that support the Wheat Board's monopoly. Some of these firms made a lot of money on the deals, money that should have been returned to farmers through the compulsory price pooling system.

Federal lawyer Brian Hay argued before the three Appeal Court judges that the Wheat Board is obliged only to conduct "orderly marketing" of farmers' grain in the interest of the federal government, not to maximize their prices. He said further that, since the Board is accountable only to Parliament, farmers such as Hoeppner have no means and no right to hold them accountable -- there is no "duty of care".

"If it cannot be held accountable for its actions by me as a farmer, it is not my agent," said Cairns. "Those are just pretty words to disguise the confiscation of every farmer's crop without appeal or the due process of law. We must not allow Parliament to commit this grave injustice."

"If the Wheat Board is not legally required to maximize farm income, our grain can be undersold or even given away for political, foreign aid or foreign policy purposes."

The CFFJ believes that the government wants this case quashed before it reaches trial because, if it does, all the files from the Wheat Board from 1993 will have to be examined in open court. That information is currently not available to farmers or the general public, and is exempt from federal access to information laws.

Goodale opposes export taxes abroad -- but enforces them at home

At a recent International Grains Council meeting in London, a statement by Wheat Board Minister Ralph Goodale highlighted this government's contradictory stance on trade issues. The minister claimed that "we strongly oppose the use of export subsidies and export taxes", and that it is not fair to buyers to jeopardize the assurance of supply. Yet he made no mention of the fact that Canadian farmers who export are also subjected to what can amount to an export tax in the form the Canadian Wheat Board's arbitrary buy-back fees on their own grain.

Ironically, the use of this export tax from Canada, more appropriately called Canadian Wheat Board licence fees, is what holds the Wheat Board monopoly together, and is what the whole acrimonious issue revolves around, as far as many farmers are concerned.

The refusal of farmers to continue paying these taxes on exports, which may in fact be illegal under international trade laws, would have been the seminal issue had the protest at North Portal, Saskatchewan on July 15 taken place.

The Canadian Wheat Board Act allows the Board to charge any sum which "in the opinion of the Board" feels it wants to charge. Many farmers feel that the charging of these sums as a prerequisite to obtaining a licence amounts to extortion.

"The system is completely arbitrary and unpredictable. The Canadian Wheat Board can change anything it wants for a farmer to obtain a licence," explains organic farmer John Husband of Wawota, Saskatchewan. "If they charge enough, they can block trade to certain countries by farmers/exporters altogether. Also, the Board's export taxes have been frequently used since 1943 to restrain exports and keep prices artificially low inside Canada to benefit, among others, Eastern Canadian users and livestock industry at the expense of rural Western Canada."

"The biggest barrier here is that Goodale seems to have a mental block as far as the Wheat Board is concerned. He just cannot seem to recognize the contradiction of espousing liberal trade policies abroad, while taxing, fining and even jailing free trade farmers at home. This kind of sanctimonious attitude needs to be exposed for what it is -- hypocrisy," Husband says.

Placing the blame where it is deserved

If you follow the media you may have saw stories in which the Canada Wheat Board blamed Canadian Pacific and Canadian National for not delivering farmer's wheat to port in time. It was a load of bull.

The media campaign was launched by the CWB after it was learned that it missed an opportunity to sell farmer's wheat for $8 a bushel last fall, ended up selling it this year for $3 a bushel. While empty rail cars (all totaled would have formed a line nearly 100 miles long) sat across the prairies, the Americans, Argentineans and Australians cleaned up on the world market during the high prices.

The CWB, supposedly staffed by experts, did not see the large size new crop coming.

What was the problem? Was it the CWB making sure that certain customers like China got wheat by backing the grain up in Western farmer's bins? Or was it incompetence?

One more reason to stop bureaucrats from denying a free market to Canadians.

National Citizens' Coalition launches campaign against Wheat Board monopoly and secrecy

The National Citizens' Coalition begins a radio campaign throughout Saskatchewan during July, which will run through part of August, to demand some answers from Ralph Goodale, minister in charge of the Canadian Wheat Board.
"We want Goodale to explain why the CWB needs to be a monopoly and why this government agency isn't audited by the Auditor General or subject to the Access to Information Act," says NCC president David Somerville.

"We also want Goodale to explain why on the one hand he's persecuting farmers for selling their own barley in the U.S. while on the other he's seeking to protect those convicted of committing criminal acts for the wheat board."

"These are questions that need answering."

The radio blitz will run for three weeks and is part of the NCC's overall campaign to end the wheat board's antiquated and oppressive marketing monopoly on wheat and barley. The group supports setting up a dual marketing system, so that farmers would have more options in marketing their crops.

Want to find out more about this group of farmers fighting for the right to keep the efforts of their production and the right of free trade? Visit CFFJ's site at http://www.cffj.com.




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