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Letters – for Feb. 18, 2010

We welcome readers’comments on issues that have been covered in the Manitoba Co-operator. In most cases we cannot accept “open” letters or copies of letters which have been sent to several publications. Letters are subject to editing for length or taste. We suggest a maximum of about 300 words.

Volunteer CWB would be democratic

The arguments by Canadian Wheat Board chair Larry Hill in the Feb. 4 Manitoba Co-operator regarding democracy would have a great deal more legitimacy if participation in the CWB was voluntary. It also doesn’t help his case that the 2007 barley plebiscite and the CWB’s own surveys demonstrate that most farmers either want the board to be voluntary or done away with completely.

By refusing to hear the CWB’s appeal of a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld the federal government’s right to order the CWB to not spend farmers’ money promoting its monopoly. This was a most welcome ruling. I’m sure most farmers and most Canadians would agree that in a democracy, citizens should not be compelled to financially support political causes against their will.

Prairie grain farmers are among the few Canadians who are not free to sell their property, their grain, to whomever they please. The WCWGA believes the CWB should be made voluntary, so that each and every farmer is free to choose whether to sell their grain on their own or on a collective basis. Anything less is undemocratic. Kevin Bender

President Western Canadian Wheat

Growers Association

“Agreements” give seed companies too much power

When intellectual property rights are exercised to the extent that a reasonable protection of profitability for a reasonable length of time is the goal, no one would object to them. But when they are exercised to provide a monopoly, or an oligopoly, as is the present case with canola seed, then I would contend that they have attained a place of power that is damaging to those who have no option but to do business with them.

At present there are only three sources of canola seed: the Roundup Ready, InVigor and Clearfield brands. All of them require signed undertakings from farmers, that they will not endeavour to save seed for their own use, but will buy fresh seed every year from one of these companies.

I don’t like these agreements. They are an affront to me. In my view, they amount to an admission that I am a crook, just looking for an opening. They give a company rights that I am not prepared to give. The result of that is that I am not able to grow canola, because I will not submit myself to such a peasant status for the simple act of purchasing seed.

To my mind, intellectual property rights were never intended to produce such a result. To put de facto control of a major crop in a major crop-growing zone into the hands of three corporations whose focus is ever and always on the bottom line is, at the very least, foolish. Why farmers, who are ultimately responsible for this situation, are so ready to go along with it, is beyond me.

At present, there is a huge outcry over having to buy certified flaxseed, which at the very outside might cost $20 an acre. Yet those same farmers will sign a paper which commits them to $50 an acre for canola seed, and never turn a hair. Go figure.

John Beckham Winnipeg, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected]

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