Most Canada farmers want barley change: minister

Thu Jun 5, 2008 1:51pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Almost 70 percent of farmers in Western Canada want the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley to end, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Thursday, quoting the farmer-run agency's own polling data.

When asked to choose between the CWB, an open market, or a "dual market" with the CWB as an optional player, a combined total of 67 percent of farmers chose either the open or dual market, a spokesman for Ritz said.

"Western Canadian farmers have made their demands for barley marketing freedom loud and clear," Ritz said in a statement.

The minority Conservative government has been trying to give farmers the option of selling barley through the CWB or directly to maltsters or export markets, ending a monopoly that the CWB and its supporters say gives them marketing clout.

Opposition parties have said they back the CWB and will vote against a government bill that would open up the market.

The CWB plans to release the 2008 polling data on Friday, and would not comment on what it contained on Thursday.

"It seems that Minister Ritz is being fairly selective and narrow in his interpretation of our annual producer survey results," said Maureen Fitzhenry, a CWB spokeswoman.

The poll results confirmed a government-run farmer plebiscite from last March, which showed a combined total of 62 percent of farmers wanted changes to the CWB's mandate.   Continued...