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CWB canola-marketing idea “This is

notgoing to come overnight and the ball is now in our court.” – butch harder

– Butch Harder

Efforsts to give western farmers the option to voluntarily market canola through the Canadian Wheat Board ( CWB) have beenresurrected. “ Keep your

earstuned and keep listening,” outgoing Manitoba Canola Growers Association president Ernie Sirski told farmers here Feb. 3 during the association’s annual meeting. “ It’s not adead issue. We thought it was, but it’s not.” MCGA members passed

a resolution at their annual meeting three years ago instructing the board of directors to investigate the feasibility of voluntary canola marketing through the CWB. It was seen as a way to boost depressed canola prices and encourage grain companies and crushers to reduce the “ basis” or thegap between the country elevator and export price. The CWB said

it might be able to improve the basis, make producer cars an option for canola and add value by offering wheat and barley customers an additional crop. However, the CWB cautioned without single- desk selling powersit could not extract premiums for canola the way it does for wheat and malting barley. The CWB also

said the idea needed the backing of most canola growers. Wheels back on

Last week MCGA

executive manager Bill Ross said after several meetings with the CWB in 2006, “ the wheels justfell off,” the idea. The CWB might have been distracted by the newly elected Conservative government’s efforts to kill the CWB’s single desk. “ We thought

it( canola marketing) wasa dead issue until it was brought back to our board about two months or so ago,” MCGA director Bruce Dalgarno said. “ Now we havea committee struck looking into whether it is feasible or whether there’s interest out there.” Last month the

MCGA’s board met with three CWB officials – District 9 director Bill Nicholson, chief operating officer Ward Weisensel and president and CEO Ian White. In an interview following the MCGA meeting, Nicholson said the CWB’s stance hasn’t changed. The first step is demonstrating a substantial number of canola growers want the option, and then they must convince the federal government to make it happen. Although voluntary canola

marketing doesn’t require an amendment to the CWB Act, the federal government would have to direct the CWB to do so through an order- in- council, saidCWBgeneral council Jim McLandress. “ This is

notgoing to come overnight and the ball is now in our court,” MCGA director Butch Harder told the meeting. Harder and fellow

directors Dale Gryba and Ed Rempel are on the MCGA subcommittee formed to investigate the idea. Even if most

Manitoba canola growers back the idea, Nicholson doubts that would be enough to get the CWB into canola marketing. Broad support needed

“ It would

takemore than one province and probably more than just producer cars too ( to get enoughcanola to make it worthwhile),” Nicholson said. “ There would probablyhave to be some of the smaller companies work with the board to originate enough volume to hit a ship in a timely way with enough volume for a normal sale.” Three years ago

the canola growers’ associations in Saskatchewan and Alberta didn’t support the idea, Nicholson said. “ I think

thatpretty much took some steam out of it.” But Nicholson added

he’s hearing there’s support among grass-roots farmers. “ It remains

tobe seen if that makes any difference in official support for it by the canola associations,” he said. The option to

market canola through the CWB via producer cars could prove popular. Farmers who ship wheat that way save around $ 1,000 a carin elevator costs. Canola grades are more consistent – routinely No. 1 – whereas wheat grades are more variable making it sometimes more attractive to deliver to an elevator where it can be blended to a higher grade. There’s no regulation

preventing farmers from shipping canola in producer cars, but there’s no financial incentive to do it since the return is about the same as delivering to the elevator. How much canola farmers could save shipping producer cars to the CWB is unknown, however, the posted elevation tariffs are higher for canola than wheat. Risks and benefits

Nothing connected to

the CWB is ever straightforward, given the bitter battle over the pros and cons of single- desk marketing. Voluntarilymarketing canola through the CWB presents potential risk and benefits for those on both sides of the debate, including the federal government, which has promised to end single- desk selling. Somesingle- desk

supporters fearif the CWB can successfully market canola in an open market, single- desk opponents willargue it can do the same with wheat and barley. Single- desk opponents

fearany move that makes the CWB more powerful, especially if it also makes it more popular with farmers. The more farmers see value in the CWB, the less inclined they are to put it at risk. [email protected] fbcpublishing. comMCGArevivesvoluntary

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

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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