Canada grain handlers reject new barley program

Thu Jan 3, 2008 5:04pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian grain handlers said on Thursday they will not participate in the Canadian Wheat Board's new barley pricing program and asked the federal government to end the agency's marketing monopoly on the crop.

The CWB's proposed cash pricing program for malting barley would not give farmers accurate price signals and would be cumbersome, said a spokesman for the Western Grain Elevator Association, which represents Canada's seven largest grain handlers.

"It is a mess, because the wheat board is trying to create some half-way system that is the worst-case scenario," said Wade Sobkowich.

The confusion over the new program comes as Prairie farmers begin to decide what to grow in spring.

It is the first time the grain companies have publicly called for Ottawa to dismantle the CWB's "single desk" for sales of barley, which covers barley grown in Western Canada and sold to maltsters and export markets.

Barley sales accounted for about 11 percent of the C$3.5 billion ($3.5 billion) in revenue for the farmer-controlled CWB for the year ended July 31, 2006. Most of its revenue comes from wheat sales.

The government had tried to end the barley monopoly by regulation as of August 1, 2007, but a Federal Court judge ruled the move required full legislative approval of the House of Commons, where it faces political opposition.

An appeal of the court's ruling will be heard February 26.   Continued...