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Alberta Agriculture meetings underline value of the CWB

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Although the Government of Alberta is putting forth a celebratory mood regarding the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) single desk, its public meetings being held in January and February across the province are taking place in an increasingly negative context for farmers who must deal with the fallout from the government’s long ideological campaign against the CWB.

While officials from Alberta Agriculture have been telling farmers to consider futures contracts and other costly services advertised by the private trade, one of the largest futures trading companies in the world, MF Global, filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S., freezing over $2 billion of farmers’ money. At the same time Viterra, a large grain-handling company, stated it anticipated extra earnings between $40 million and $50 million a year, money that will come out of farmers’ pockets.

When you consider the news that the opening of South Korea to beef sales is only anticipated to bring an extra $15 million a year, and much of that will end up in the pockets of the packing companies, the scale of the disaster caused by losing the CWB becomes very clear.

The CWB earned Prairie grain farmers a minimum of $500 million per year. There will be no way to replace that scale of proven economic benefit.

I was very upset to hear these Alberta Ag officials tell us that the introduction of genetically modified (GM) wheat is now just around the corner. They must have missed the memo from our customers that they will not buy GM wheat. I can only assume they see the profits on GM seed sales to farmers, as more important than the fact nobody wants to eat GM wheat. Farmers won’t be able to sell it, because no one wants it. Where is their respect for our customers? How is this good news for anybody but the agro-chemical companies?

Big grain and big rail companies have been trying hard for 25 years to bankrupt small grain players. This latest coup — the elimination of the CWB — could do it. Without the CWB doing sales and getting terminal space for producer cars, I don’t see how short line railways can continue to ship grain in producer cars.

For decades the Alberta government has financed a campaign to undermine the CWB. The bureaucrats at these meetings are failing to come up with anything remotely beneficial for farmers. It is now becoming clearer to farmers that the “freedom” from the single desk comes with a loss of economic opportunities. Ironically these latest information meetings again illustrate the value of the CWB single desk.

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