Ritz hopes for Aug 1 barley monopoly end
By Roberta Rampton
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday he hopes the Conservative government can end the Canadian Wheat Board's barley monopoly by August 1, 2008, either by regulation or legislation.
But the "specter" of a spring election could derail that timetable, Ritz told reporters.
"That could be problematic in a time frame to get it done by August 1 of '08," Ritz said.
The farmer-controlled wheat board has a government-mandated monopoly on sales of wheat and barley grown in Western Canada to millers, maltsters and export markets.
The government had tried to end the 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 the Conservatives hold only a minority of seats and must rely on the support of at least one opposition party.
The government has appealed, and Ritz told reporters that the matter would be heard on February 21. However, a spokesman for the Federal Court of Appeal said no date has been set.
A spokesman for Ritz later said February 21 had been a tentative hearing date, but the schedule had changed. A hearing is expected in late February or early March, he said.
Earlier this week, Canadian malting companies, major barley buyers, asked the government to immediately introduce legislation so they could contract directly with farmers for the next barley harvest. Continued...