Canada s Conservative government will pass legislation very soon to end the Canadian Wheat Board s monopoly on marketing western wheat and barley for milling or export, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Oct. 7, strongly warning the board to get out of the way.
Harper, in Regina, Saskatchewan for the announcement for construction of Western Canada s first major durumprocessing plant in years, said his government will introduce legislation shortly after next week s House of Commons break and pass it soon after. The monopoly would end as of Aug. 1, 2012.
This is a historic change that has been long overdue, Harper said. It s time for the wheat board and others who have been standing in the way to realize that this train is barrelling down a Prairie track. You re much better to get on it than to lie on the tracks because this is going ahead.
Seeking to capitalize on the end of the monopoly, Alliance Grain Traders has announced it will build a durum-and legume-processing plant at Regina.
Wheat board chairman, Alberta farmer Allen Oberg, said Harper is using Alliance s plans for political gain.
The board is looking to meet with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and wants assurances it will have the tools to compete in an open market, such as capital and regulated access to grain handlers, Oberg said.
The board has no retained earnings or grain storage facilities.
Saskatchewan-based Alliance already processes durum at its facilities in Turkey, and will now spend $50 million to build Western Canada s only major durum processor starting in 2012.
The CWB is the world s biggest exporter of durum.
Farmers supported keeping the wheat monopoly in a recent nonbinding vote held by the board, but they also overwhelmingly supported the Conservatives in the federal election this spring.
Ending the Canadian Wheat Board s monopoly is clearly sending a signal that Canada is open for business, said Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada.
Processors want to sign contracts directly with farmers to lock in supplies but can t do that under the monopoly, he said.
The notion that a durum plant couldn t operate under a wheat monopoly is nonsense, countered Stewart Wells, one of the board s elected directors, based in Saskatchewan.
There s no reason why anyone with a good business plan wouldn t be able to build their operation and still have a strong wheat board that s getting a fair price to farmers for their grain.
Much of Western Canada s durum is currently processed in mills in eastern Canada or in the U.S. Northern Plains, including the Dakota Growers plant owned by Viterra Inc.
Canada s Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a visit to the Saskcan Agtech building in Regina, October 7, 2011. Alliance Grain Traders Inc. announced it plans to build a $50-million multi-purpose durum wheat-and pulse-milling facility in Regina.REUTERS/DAVID STOBBE