The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), once a steadfast supporter of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), accepts the board will lose its single desk.
Now Manitoba s largest farm group wants to ensure farmers benefit from the controversial change, says KAP president Doug Chorney.
We re just facing the reality of the circumstances that we find ourselves in, he said in an interview from Ottawa before meeting with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials Sept. 23. At some point you have to adapt to the reality of your situation.
KAP s standing policy on the wheat board states in part that KAP supports the balance offered by both an inclusion and an exclusion option (for crops) providing producers have the final say.
As recently as June Chorney repeated KAP s position publicly, but now he says it s clear the government is moving ahead despite what KAP says.
So we need to look at how we can be effective for our membership so it s done without any negative consequences on producers, Chorney said.
The Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP), KAP s sister organization in Alberta has a similar wheat board policy. But while KAP has given up, WRAP last week issued a news release calling on the federal government to respect the wheat board s plebiscite, which saw 62 and 51 per cent of western Canadian farmers vote to keep the single desks for wheat and barley, respectively.
I know for certain we re not coming out with any statement suggesting that government needs to adhere to the plebiscite, Chorney said in response.
WRAP and KAP s divergent postures are out of sync with years of polling that shows support for the board s single desk is strongest among Manitoba farmers and weakest in Alberta.
Wild Rose s policy is we believe producers should make the decision regarding their marketing, WRAP president Humphrey Banack said in an interview.
WRAP, like KAP, has members on both sides of the CWB schism. But WRAP s board policy is long standing, Banack said.
Even the open-marketers respect that we (farmers) should be deciding.
DRAWING THE LINE
After acquiescing on what some say is a fundamental principle, would KAP ever be prepared to draw a line in the sand?
Well, that s a question our membership will have to struggle with, Chorney said.
KAP s current board stance is based on feedback from members, its executive and management, Chorney said.
We d be getting a lot more calls if I was really offside on my approach and we re not, he said. I think the bigger trend is leading to accepting what s happening and the reality of what the government wants to do is sinking in with people. I don t know that we re going to see people screaming in the streets because of this.
Chorney said he expects more feedback at KAP s general council meeting next month.
By accepting the loss of the single desk is KAP, by default, endorsing an open market?
It will be different, Chorney said in response. What we have in the future will never be like what we had in the past. I guess we have caved in a little bit on that front.
Many contend there are just two choices the single desk or an open market.
But maybe there is another way, Chorney said. I don t think enough ground has been covered to really explore how that could function in reality. Is it all or nothing all the time? Maybe that isn t the case anymore.
Farmers might market collectively in an open market if the government guarantees borrowings for a post-monopoly board or puts up operating capital, Chorney said.
Wheat board chair Allen Oberg has said the same, but so far the government hasn t said what support, if any, it will provide.
Grain companies strongly oppose the idea, complaining it would provide an unfair advantage.
While KAP has given up on farmers deciding the wheat board s future, KAP continues to push for improved AgriRecovery support for cattle producers. It s also pushing the Manitoba government to remove education taxes from property and drop the western route for Manitoba Hydro s Bipole III project.
That s because I haven t met a single member who isn t really upset about Bipole III and the west route, Chorney said. [email protected]