Support for the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is up according to the CWB’s most recent survey of farmers.
That’s not what usually happens following the kind of controversy swirling around the marketing issue, says David Herle, a partner in the polling firm Gandalf Group that conducted the survey. “Normally in my experience when something becomes controversial support for it drops, it doesn’t grow,” Herle said in an interview last week.
Herle said the survey suggests farmers see benefits in the single desk and are uncomfortable with people endangering the organization.
Herle said a lot of farmers want a “constructive dialogue” around barley marketing. “But I think that won’t happen as long as the government is seen to be committed to endangering the wheat board’s existence because most farmers will react defensively about the board to anything that comes forward now,” he said.
The federal government says it wants to end the barley single desk first, then wheat.
When asked to pick between retaining the CWB’s single desk for wheat and an open market, 63 per cent of the 1,300 farmers surveyed backed the single desk. That’s up from 57 per cent last year and close to the highest percentage of support since the CWB started surveying. Thirty-one per cent opted for an open market.
Support for the wheat single desk is strongest in Manitoba with 70 per cent in favour; 28 per cent prefer an open market.
When farmers were asked to choose between single desk selling, a dual market or an open market 47 per cent opted to retain the single desk, 44 per cent wanted a dual market and nine per cent want it open.
This survey, like previous ones, shows farmers are more divided over barley marketing. Forty-six per cent, opted for an open market and 42 per cent said keep the single desk. Twelve per cent picked neither.
Given a choice between single desk selling, a dual market or an open market, 33 per cent picked the single desk, 40 per cent selected a dual market and 20 per cent opted for an open market.
Forty per cent is the lowest support yet for the dual barley option.
Of those who preferred a “dual market,” 52 per cent said they would not choose it if they thought it would lead to the end of the CWB.
Record wheat returns last crop year during volatile markets changed some farmers’ attitudes regarding the CWB’s ability to extract premiums and the value of price pooling, Herle said. They “looked at last year and said ‘you know there’s a very high chance I would have screwed myself.’”
A high percentage of farmers said the board reflected their views and most farmers said they want the CWB to speak out more on their behalf.
But it’s how farmers answered a series of questions about which would do a better job – the CWB or open market without the CWB – that demonstrates strong support for the CWB, Herle said.
When asked which would allow farmers to make the most profit, 48 per cent said the CWB, 19 said an open market without the CWB and 20 per cent either one.
Herle said he was surprised that 39 per cent said the CWB would be best at encouraging value-added on the Prairies, given that the CWB is often accused by its critics for discouraging processing. Thirty-four per cent said an open market without the wheat board would do better; 22 per cent said either one would do as well.
Farmers increasingly see the CWB as being run by its board of directors. Eighty-three per cent said the directors operate the wheat board, up from 73 per cent last year.
However, when asked who has more say over major CWB decisions, 43 per cent said farmers and 49 said the federal government. Last year 26 per cent said farmers and 66 per cent said the government. [email protected]