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CWB needs to keep evolving: Hill

Reviewing 10 years of farmer oversight at the Canadian Wheat Board, its chairman sees an organization that’s evolved substantially but has to keep that evolution going.

“As producers, we wanted more flexibility and choices,” said Larry Hill, who farms at Swift Current, Sask. and has sat on the farmer-elected board of directors since it first assumed its duties Jan. 1, 1999. “We wanted major improvements in CWB accountability to farmers. The results have been dramatic.”

The CWB has come a long way since 1999, he said, but must go further. “We have to be sure that our programs match farmers’ needs and our accountability measures assure them their financial interests are well served.

“We need to demonstrate the value this organization adds to their farm businesses,” said Hill, who took the helm from previous chairman Ken Ritter in March 2008. “We must improve our interactions with producers, who are the owners and stakeholders of this corporation.”

The CWB noted in a New Year’s Eve release that its original elected board, which included 10 elected and five government-appointed directors, began spearheading change immediately.

By the following year, the CWB said, the first producer payment options (PPOs) were rolled out and Prairie farmers for the first time were able to choose their own prices for wheat, outside of the pool.

The board noted it has since offered a range of payment, pricing and delivery options on top of pooling, most recently including CashPlus, an upfront cash price for malting barley, and FlexPro, a year-round wheat-pricing option.

Value-added incentives now also provide more leeway for niche-market or farmer-owned processing, the CWB said.

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