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Voluntary CWB Unlikely: Toews

The working group report says farmers are disappointed the Canadian Wheat Board hasn t come up with a plan for transitioning into an open market.

The board says it has presented options, but Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz refuses to acknowledge or accept them.

Unfortunately the minister has never sat down with the board to even discuss options that would provide some value for farmers through some type of structured marketing organization, District 10 director Bill Toews said Sept. 29 in an interview. So as far as I m concerned the responsibility for the lack of movement in terms of discussing something of consequence lies strictly with the minister s office.

When put to Ritz, he replied in an email: It s hard for the government to know what the CWB thinks when it absolutely refused to accept our offer of making them co-chair of the working group. During our consultation phase we repeatedly asked for all materials prepared by KPMG and any analysis done by the CWB; the CWB offered us nothing but stall tactics.

We remain hopeful that the CWB will put aside their self-serving fear-mongering and propaganda and put the best interests of farmers first.

The board says it needs access to grain-handling facilities through regulation or by owning assets. The latter would require funding from Ottawa. The working group report recommends an open market be built on a commercial basis.

Certainly our current board does not believe that without significant input from the government something like a voluntary wheat board or grain company could exist, Toews said.

Time is running out, with the government planning to implement an open market Aug. 1, 2012.

So I think it s very unlikely that you re going to see a voluntary wheat board that has any staying power whatsoever.

National Farmers Union president Terry Boehm says without the single desk the board will be of little value.

My thought on that is that this is really all about getting rid of the board entirely, Boehm said.

Let s just pull back the curtain and understand this is the government s objective. They have no ideas for their dual market.

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Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the government has been steadfast in its support for a viable, voluntary CWB. PHOTO: ALLAN DAWSON

About the author

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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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