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Letters – for Sep. 1, 2011

As the District 2 CWB director, I attended the three so-called producer information meetings set up by the CWB in Medicine Hat, Camrose and Falher. Having read some of the media reports of the meetings in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I knew that these meetings were all about politics, and an all-or-nothing message from the CWB chair and keeping the monopoly.

Every meeting was literally a carbon copy of each other, with literally the same scripted questions, and sometimes the same people asking those questions.

In my personal view, I was embarrassed for the farmers who had come to the meetings to hear about the future, to our staff who worked hard in setting up these meetings, and senior management who attended.

Fact is, that the minister informed us when he visited the CWB offices back in May that this government is going to repeal the current CWB Act and replace it with a new act.

By doing that, the government then supersedes any requirement that is in the current CWB Act, therefore, making the requirement for a plebiscite invalid. Our internal counsel has advised us that the government does have the authority to do so, and also advised us that holding our own plebiscite will be non-binding on the government.

What has been missing at these meetings and the history of the CWB is respect for the producers’ opinions. Surveys show a growing percentage of farmers who are not supportive of the single desk, and the biggest group that expresses that opinion is farmers under 45 years of age. We’ve seen in all the producer surveys done since 1998 that there is not majority support for marketing barley under the single desk, yet what have we done? At the majority at these meetings, in all due respect, were well-seasoned farmers, many who even stated that they were retired, yet support the CWB monopoly and don’t want to see any changes.

Only individual farmers can decide what is best for their business. I cannot and will not tell my neighbour how to manage their farm, and what to do with their wheat and barley, and no one should feel they have the right to tell me what to do with my grain on my farm. Democracies don’t work that way.

Jeff Nielsen CWB Director, District 2 The word “democracy” has been used a lot in the debate over the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. Groups and individuals supporting the status quo are saying that Minister Gerry Ritz should respect the right of farmers to vote on this issue.

WBGA also believes in democracy, particularly the democratic right of a farmer to choose when they deliver their grain, who they sell their grain to and at what price they sell that grain for. That democratic freedom – to operate a business successfully – should never be taken away from farmers via a vote by other farmers. Canada is a nation built on the principle of freedom for its citizens and holding a vote to decide whether farmers are free or not goes completely counter to those principles.

Minister Ritz has consistently taken this position since his announcement to remove the monopoly of the CWB. The WBGA strongly supports the minister on his stand and encourages him to continue on the path of freedom for western Canadian farmers.

Ritz has it right, the results of the CWB vote are irrelevant. This is about the democratic rights of farmers and that should never be put to a vote. If the CWB and its supporters want to demonstrate democracy, they need to start by respecting basic business principles and property rights. Brian Otto

President Western Barley Growers

Association Warner, Alta.

Politics Behind Fund Withdrawal

Just when a federally inspected beef slaughter plant was weeks from construction, the federal Conservatives slammed the door on

Manitoba beef producers; $10 million that was promised under the Tory’s action plan in 2009 was withdrawn and given to Hylife Corporation to upgrade a hog slaughter plant. Federal Ag Minister Gerry Ritz blamed the beef plant’s business plan, even though a major bank thought a business model based on niche products and toll processing was good enough to commit over $18 million.

One begins to wonder if the broken promise to beef producers has more to do with politics than business sense. The proposed plant was the direct result of a pool of capital collected and invested by the Manitoba Cattle Enhancement Council. The provincial NDP established the council in 2006 and matched producer checkoff dollars to fund enhanced slaughter capacity in

Manitoba. It could have been a huge success but the federal Tories didn’t want the plant to be built and succeed.

At the same time as they were laying plans to dismantle the producer-owned Canadian Wheat Board, the Tories were already planning to take away market opportunities from Manitoba cattlemen. It appears that the Conservatives are all about lining the pockets of corporations at the expense of farmers and ranchers. Remember this when you go to the polls for the provincial election.

Peter Gulak Gilbert Plains, Man.

It’s Not Over

In his Aug. 4 editorial, John Morriss takes myself and others to task for our ongoing campaign to gain marketing freedom for Prairie farmers. He asks the question, “Why are they still fighting?” After all, according to Morriss we have finally won, the battle is over, and it’s time to move on.

I wish it were that simple. While the Conservatives are in power and have promised to change the wheat board legislation, they have yet to table anything, let alone get it passed. We’ve got a ways to go yet.

Besides which, as Allan Dawson recently reported, the wheat board itself is certainly not behaving as if things are over. They’re spending an awful lot of time, and producers’ money on meetings across the Prairies, expensive ads, a meaningless plebiscite and a telephone campaign trying to muster support for the single desk both within the farming community, and the general public at large. To say that they are not “co-operating” with the federal government is to understate the matter.

We may be in the third period, and things are looking good for marketing freedom, but it’s a bit premature to be heading to the dressing room for a victory celebration just yet. With all due respect to Mr. Morriss, we’ll stay in the game as long as the other team remains on the ice and won’t be letting up, until the final whistle and an open market has actually been won.

Rolf Penner Manitoba vice-president

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected] (subject: To the editor)



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