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A voluntary CWB makes dollars and sense

My goal in running for election as a director of the Canadian Wheat Board is to give you the ability to act in the best interests of your farm. I don’t pretend to know what’s right for you, but I do believe that you should be given the chance to make the decisions you think are best for you and your families. That’s why I strongly believe in the value of a voluntary board.

I believe a voluntary CWB, competing openly for farmers’ grain, will give each and every farmer the opportunity to earn higher returns. The Prairies possess all this open space, a hard-working people filled with wonderful ideas and tremendous potential. But, unfortunately, serious roadblocks keep us from living up to that potential. It’s time to get those roadblocks out of our way. The single desk – not the wheat board itself, but merely its monopoly in marketing certain grains – is one of those barriers.

I also firmly believe that a voluntary CWB is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical perspective. It’s as simple as this. Grain belongs to the farmers who produce it. It doesn’t belong to their neighbours or the government. It is farmers’ property. If elected, I will never forget to whom that grain really belongs. I will work towards returning possession of that grain, to its rightful owner – the people who grow it. Then all farmers can decide to whom they sell it, or whether they want someone else to sell it on their behalf.

An option for every farmer should be the Canadian Wheat Board. There is no reason to believe that it cannot survive in a competitive environment. But to do so, it will have to improve its performance, get more aggressive in the marketplace, and net the highest margins for growers.

Over the past 20 years, the CWB’s administration costs have increased an average of $2 million, or seven per cent per year. It costs $20 to $30 a tonne more to move wheat to port than a freely marketed crop like canola. According to the Informa report, “Of the 91 countries to which Canada exported non-durum wheat, only Ecuador potentially exhibited characteristics suggesting that Canada has sufficient market power to leverage price.”

On Oct. 31, winter wheat was worth C$1.82 a bushel more in Bottineau, North Dakota, than the CWB fixed-price contract in Manitoba. A comparison of final pool prices to either average U. S. elevator prices, or even the board’s own asking prices, shows returns that are consistently below average even after factoring in a large margin for error. All these things need to improve.

Some naysayers are trying to scare farmers with all sorts of imaginary open-market hobgoblins. Don’t be fooled by them. The real danger to the existence of the CWB is not marketing choice, but those who treat the single desk as an untouchable sacred cow. It’s not a question of an open market or monopoly. It’s a question of a voluntary wheat board or no board at all.

I want the wheat board to be there for those who want to use it. But continuing to force all farmers to use it against their own will is a surefire recipe for making sure that, in the long run, it won’t be there for anyone.

It is claimed that the CWB is farmer controlled. But how much control do farmers really have if they can’t say “no?” The ability to vote once every four years for directors, along with 57,000 other permit book holders, does represent a kind of control. But it’s like lighting a match in your basement in the middle of winter to warm your house; technically you do create some heat, but not enough to matter. If elected, I will work hard to make sure you have the ability to vote with your crop every single year. That’s real, full control, year in and year out.

For such change to occur, you have to vote for someone who believes that it is possible. I am that person. I respectfully ask you to seriously consider putting a number “1” beside my name on your ballot.

I wish to thank the Manitoba Co-operator for the opportunity to tell you why I want to serve as your CWB director in District 10. If you want to know more about who I am, what I stand for and how to vote, please visit my website: rolfpennerforcwb.com.

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