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CWB Survey Says Farmers Want Control

“The message from

farmers is crystal clear: they want to be firmly in charge

of their marketing organization and call the shots

on its future.”

– ALLEN OBERG

The majority of western Canadian farmers believe they should be the ones deciding the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, according to the board’s annual producer survey.

Of the 900 farmers surveyed across the three Prairie provinces, 76 per cent said the federal government should not eliminate the CWB without farmer consent.

Both supporters and opponents of the CWB single-desk model supported that view, according to the CWB. In addition, 79 per cent said the ultimate decisions about the CWB must be made by farmers, not by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“The message from farmers is crystal clear: they want to be firmly in charge of their marketing organization and call the shots on its future,” said CWB chair Allen Oberg in a June 9 news release.

Oberg said a number of issues, including the court-backed federal “gag order” of the CWB, suggest the role of farmers is being eroded. The survey shows farmers are less likely than last year to view the CWB as farmer controlled, with 60 per cent of the opinion that the federal government has more say than farmers over decisions at the CWB, compared to 49 per cent in 2009.

Seventy per cent of farmers surveyed said they support the organization, relatively unchanged from the previous year. Among farmers who conduct at least 25 per cent of their business through the CWB, 76 per cent supported the CWB. Of those producers who do less than 25 per cent of their business with the CWB, less than half were supportive. “Farmers who are the most engaged and familiar with the CWB marketing model appear to value it the most,” Oberg said in the release.

On marketing structure, 69 per cent of respondents supported retaining the single desk for wheat. However, for barley, opinions were more complex, with only 48 per cent of farmers preferring the CWB model for barley over the open market. Oberg noted that 49 per cent of barley growers said they believe the CWB can get better prices than the open market, compared to only 29 per cent who believed an open market could achieve higher barley returns.

“This suggests the barley debate is about something other than generating the best prices for malting barley,” he said.

In addition, support for the “dual-marketing” concept for barley has dropped significantly over the past five years, from a high of 54 per cent in 2005 to 39 per cent in the latest survey.

The wide-ranging survey also showed farmers are pessimistic about the state of agriculture this year, with 53 per cent believing agriculture is on the wrong track, compared to only 31 per cent last year. Top concerns were the low price of wheat, the high costs of inputs and the expense of grain transportation.

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