Canadian Farmers for Justice Updates

web posted April 1997

Majority Vote For State Control Of Barley

By a vote of 63 per cent to 37 per cent, the 58 000 farmers who voted have given the nod to allow the government to continue controlling the sale of barley.

The vote itself was a forgone conclusion. Agriculture Minister Ralph Goodale's question was all or nothing at all. Those who wanted to maintain a collective, but also wanted the freedom to sale outside of the system, were given no choice on the ballot. The question was simply, either you get a wheat board or you sell it on your own.


``Minister Goodale is sadly mistaken if he thinks this issue has been put to bed. The debate will continue until farmers have a chance to vote on the question they want answered, rather than an irrelevant question, posed by the Minister on the advice of the CWB.''
- Ted Allen, President of United Grain Growers.

Previous plebiscites have shown that a majority of farmers want a dual marketing system. Those who wish to use a Wheat Board may or they may be one of those who wish to ply the free market. Goodale's question was loaded so that only one result would likely win. Goodale has his win, but the supporters of dual marketing also won.

Canadian and American Farmers Meet to Discuss Canada Wheat Board

Recently sixteen farmers from Saskatchewan and Alberta met with a group of Montana farmers in Shelby, Montana. It was organized by Hank Zell and Ron Jensen, two Montana farmers who had spearheaded the blockade of local elevators in 1994 to prevent the Canada Wheat Board from flooding their markets with under-priced grain. Their efforts led to Canada being forced to accept a cap on exports of grain to the United States.

Zell and Jensen, who have extensive knowledge of the problems faced by Canadian farmers caused by the CWB, wanted their neighbours to get to know representatives of CFFJ and what their objectives were. Richard Nordstrom of Viking, Alberta said the meeting was a real eye-opener for the Americans.

"Most had no idea the heavy-handed manner in which our farmers in Western Canada are controlled by the CWB. They wondered why anyone would put up with such a system", Nordstrom said.

At first the Americans were suspicious that the Canadians wanted to flood their local elevators. It was explained to them with the help of Zell and Jensen that there might be short-term, localized problems if the border was opened but that these would quickly disappear. Canadian grain companies would have to match the price paid to the Americans if they wished to have their elevator system utilized. Glen Harrison of Kindersley said,

"I'm not interested in hauling my grain to the United States. What I want is to bring the American price for wheat north. Once the price was equalized there would be little cross-border movement."

It was also explained that it was the CWB that prevents them from hauling their grain north even when they grew Canadian varieties that met all our standards. Another advantage of being able to access the Canadian rail system would be to force Burlington Northern to be more competitive in their freight rates.

After extensive discussions the Americans volunteered to mount simultaneous actions with the farmers organizing a 500 truck convey to the U.S. border with no permits from Customs Canada. Plans were made for more meetings and to make overtures to farmers in North Dakota.

Alberta Cattleman Declare Opposition To CWB

The chorus of voices against the Canadian Wheat Board continues to grow louder, especially by those in related industries.

"The Canadian Wheat Board Act enslaves farmers," said Gary McMorris, a director of the Western Stock Growers Association. "It takes away their rights to dispose of the fruits of their own labor."

The Alberta Cattle Commission and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also criticized the board Thursday during hearings in Calgary by the House of Commons agriculture committee.

The board's export role spills over into markets inside Canada for the biggest single-cost item in raising livestock, which is barley used as animal fodder, the groups agreed.

The groups are complaining that CWB interference in the grain market is driving up their costs. The cattle associations point out that beef long ago overtook grain as the leading money-earner in rural Western Canada.

"The powers and roles of the board were designed to deal with a totally different agricultural economy," said cattlemen's association director John Prentice.

The livestock sector rejected changes to the board proposed by federal Agriculture Minister Ralph Goodale and under study at committee hearings in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Grande Prairie, Alberta.
A key proposal, which would strengthen the board by letting it buy barley at any time on cash commodity markets, could hurt Canadian supplies and drive up prices paid by cattle producers, said Dale Wilson, vice-chairman of the cattle commission.

If Agriculture Minister Ralph Goodale won't listen to farmers, will he listen to the livestock industry?

What Do The Socialists Say?

During hearings on Bill C-72, an act that would amend the Canada Wheat Board Act, Nettie Wiebe, the president of the socialist National Farmers Union, said that the government should not shape legislation to suit "renegades" opposed to state control of grain sales.

Wiebe stated that most farmers support the board.

Reform MP Elwin Hermanson countered Wiebe's assertions about that support, pointing to a 1995 poll conducted by the Saskatchewan government that indicated 58 per cent of Saskatchewan farmers believed participation in the CWB should be voluntary.

Hermanson also stated that the NFU's inflexible stand against reforms will destroy the wheat board. One can only hope.

Special Deals For Some Farmers

Those who supported the system have always been rewarded, and the case of the Canada Wheat Board is no different from any other.

The Manitoba Co-Operator, the Manitoba Pool Elevators' newspaper, recently carried a piece that proudly proclaimed a "special arrangement" with it and Warburton's, a large British bakery.

The bakery needs certain types of wheat, specifically Columbus, Pasqua and Teal. Those who grew the grain under the guidelines would receive a $30 per tonne premium, nearly a dollar a bushel more than what other farmers get.

So what's the scam you might be asking?

According to Jim Pallister, a farmer and member of the Canadian Farmers for Justice, Columbus, Pasqua and Teal are "very common" on the prairies and don't cost anymore to grow than other varieties.

The Manitoba Pool Elevators also happens to be one the biggest supporters of the CWB. United Grain Growers, a critic of the CWB monopoly was refused even a chance to handle the grain.

The "special arrangement" that will see a substantial volume of grain pass hands breaks an important pillar that the Canada Wheat Board says it guards and protects.

The CWB says that all returns are supposed to go into a pool for all farmers to share. Every farmer gets the same price for each grade. This deal completely bypasses pooling.

So what is this deal? A kickback for the continued support of the Manitoba Pool Elevators and another example of power corrupting a government agency.

CFFJ Members Pass Torch to New Leadership

At a recent meeting a smaller, more formal, board of directors structure was set up for the CFFJ.

The CFFJ would like to thank retiring steering committee members for their time and commitment. Thanks to Jim Pallister, who has done a great deal of speaking, writing and organizing. Also to David James who has been handling the donations and expenses from the beginning of the network.

The CFFJ would also like to thank Ken Dillen for the whirlwind of activity over the last few months. His skill kept the intensity up during the barley vote. He coordinated meetings, did press interviews and radio shows from Winnipeg to Peace River.

Donations can now be sent to a new address: Box 521, Central Butte, Saskatchewan, S0H 0T0, Canada.

Don't know what CFFJ is about? Want to learn more about the group? Visit the Canadian Farmers For Justice website.

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