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Farmers Fight Farmers In Canadian Wheat Board Brawl

Mostly it has been farmers fighting the government over the Canadian Wheat Board s future, now it s farmer against farmer.

Three western Manitoba producers paid for an inserted advertisement in the Manitoba Co-operatorlast week accusing the Keystone Agriculture Producers (KAP) of not working to save the Canadian Wheat Board and suggesting KAP members request their membership fees back or complain about KAP s position.

The ad alleges KAP made an undemocratic change to its wheat board policy due to intimidation from the federal government.

But KAP president Doug Chorney says the ad is wrong.

There s no shift in policy, he said. We support the democratic approach to making changes at the wheat board.

However, Chorney added KAP has resigned itself to the board s monopoly being removed without a farmer plebiscite because that s what the federal majority government says it will do.

KAP s current position on the wheat board was arrived at democratically following the passing of three resolutions at KAP s July General Council meeting, Chorney said. Although none of the resolutions say KAP should stop advocating for a farmer plebiscite they call on KAP to develop a strategy for the continuation of non-marketing services currently provided by the board, that KAP lobby for an efficient transition and that the government cover the costs of ending board marketing, not farmers.

The purpose of the ad is to make farmers aware of KAP s position and encourage it to support the board, Brookdale farmer Andrew Dennis, one of the farmers who paid for the ad, said in an interview.

That doesn t mean we re suggesting they take their money out, but we re suggesting they kind of assess what s going on, he said. If they want to save the wheat board these guys (KAP) are actually working against them at this point.

Lyle Bremner of Neepawa and Grant Jardine of Brookdale were the other farmers who paid for the ad.

Dennis and Jardine drove trucks across the West this summer to raise money and awareness for a court challenge launched by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board to force Ottawa to hold a farmer plebiscite on the board s future.

Some KAP members are angry theCo-operatorran the insert, and KAP s lawyer sent a letter asking it not be run again. But John Morriss, the paper s associate publisher and editorial director, said ads are not censored.

Essentially as long as the ad meets normal standards of taste and they re not libelous or slanderous we re prepared to run the ad, he said.

We don t necessarily agree with the contents of all our advertisements, or all our articles, but that s essentially what a newspaper is about. It s a public forum.

Earlier this month the National Farmers Union (NFU) issued a press release condemning KAP s decision to withdraw from the wheat board debate and invited disaffected KAP members to join the NFU.

With the NFU, you know that the CWB will always be defended, NFU Region 5 coordinator Ian Robson said.

KAP s standing policy states, in part, that KAP supports the balance offered by both an inclusion and an exclusion option (for crops under the board) providing producers have the final say.

In other words, farmers should have a vote.

KAP has members on both sides of the wheat board debate. With the spectre of the Manitoba Farm Bureau, which blew apart in the early 1980s over the equally divisive Crow Rate, some observers believe KAP was trying to avoid a similar fate.

Asked if he thought his actions have aided what some see as Ottawa s divide and conquer approach, Dennis replied: We re not doing this to be malicious. We re doing it to make sure that moving forward that these groups try and reflect the majority view.

Farm groups are important but they are of no use at all if they re not going to fight for the important things and that particular thing (wheat board) probably eclipses everything else put together.

The NFU has no qualms about trying to poach KAP members, said NFU president Terry Boehm.

This is a historical moment when people need to be steadfast, he said in an interview.

So, no, I have no misgivings.

———

There s no shift in policy. We support the democratic

approach to making changes at the wheat board.

Doug Chorney

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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