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CWB says it’s not for sale

CWB says it’s not for sale

Manitoba Co-operator — CWB isn’t a grain company on the auction block, it’s a company looking for a new partner, who along with farmer-shareholders, will help it grow to serve western Canadian farmers better.

“I think there is a misunderstanding about what CWB is trying to do,” Dayna Spiring, CWB’s chief strategy officer said in an interview Nov. 3. “We’re not selling the CWB and that’s never been our goal.

“We’ve said all along we want farmers to play a role in the CWB. That’s what our farmer equity is there to do. We want farmers to be a significant shareholder in the CWB. We need to bring an investor in to partner with farmers to replace the federal government. We’re not selling off the CWB and this is not a sale as anyone would typically see a sale.”

Nor has CWB accelerated the privatization process, she said. CWB has long said it wants to complete the privatization process required under federal legislation sooner than later. The legislation says CWB must present a plan to the agriculture minister by 2016 and privatize or wind up operation by 2017.

Last week, Farmers of North America (FNA) announced CWB rejected its bid to acquire CWB’s assets. FNA wants to create a majority farmer-owned grain-handling and -marketing company that also distributes fertilizer, including nitrogen FNA hopes will be produced by its proposed majority farmer-owned nitrogen-manufacturing company, known as ProjectN.

Spiring declined to comment on FNA’s bid. However, she said CWB, which is being assisted in the privatization process by Deloitte, wants to get the best deal it can for farmers.

“We’re going to make sure we come up with the right plan and do all the due diligence that we can to assure CWB is a strong and viable organization going forward,” she said.

Bob Friesen, FNA’s vice-president of government relations, said in an interview Oct. 31 he didn’t know why FNA’s bid had been rejected.

“If we had more time… we could get more farmers and get enough capital to put in a stronger bid,” Friesen said. “I’m not saying our bid wasn’t strong, I’m saying we’ve already been rejected.”

FNA is appealing to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to order CWB to give FNA more time to get farmers to back its plan.
“This is not a political process,” Ritz said in an email Oct. 29 when asked about FNA’s bid being rejected. “The CWB will assess all serious bidders and then submit a plan for commercialization to the government, in accordance with the legislation passed (in) December 2011.”

Spiring agreed CWB wants to create something more than a regular grain company.

“We value farmers as our partners,” she said. “I don’t know of another example in the grain industry as a company gifting its equity to farmers in return for deliveries. I think that speaks fairly loudly as to where we see farmers playing a role in this organization.”

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Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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