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CashPlus Move “Blindsides” Barley Growers

A Prairie barley growers’ group says those holding uncontracted malting barley have been “blind-sided” by the Canadian Wheat Board’s decision not to use its designated barley pool to select for new export sales.

The CWB announced Jan. 30 that to protect relatively high current pooled values for designated barley, given recent international market price declines, it will carry out “most” new malting barley business for the rest of 2008-09 using CashPlus, a board program that offers farmers an upfront cash price.

“Where does this leave farmers with uncontracted malt barley?” Western Barley Growers Association acting president Brian Otto said in a Feb. 4 statement.

“If the producers have to find their own cash markets for malt barley (via CashPlus), what service is the CWB providing? It astounds me that they feel they add value here. Why are they even involved?”

There was no indication at the beginning of the crop year that the CWB’s malting barley pool could essentially be closed early, said Otto, who farms at Warner, Alta., about 60 km southeast of Lethbridge.

Come January, there was no indication from the CWB that it was considering closing the pooled account prematurely, said Otto. He stepped in as acting president of the Airdrie, Alta.-based WBGA when president Jeff Nielsen was elected in December to the CWB’s board of directors.

The CWB says it sold a “considerable quantity” of malting barley earlier in the current pool year, when international prices were $2 to $3 per bushel higher than they are today.

Since then, the CWB said, a “large volume” of high-quality barley from competing countries, particularly from the European Union, came to market and pressured prices.

And Prairie farmers “have now become aware that additional selection opportunities are limited due to the large, high-quality barley crop in Canada and around the world,” CWB CEO Ian White said Jan. 30.

But Otto said barley growers now deserve to know: “Is the account closed to all new sales of malt barley after the announced closing? Does the CWB plan to make a final payment sooner since the account was closed halfway through the current crop year?”

Otto described the CWB’s decision as “a dramatic example where pooling only works for some producers and not for others who, unfortunately, were waiting until later in the crop year for malt selection.”

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