Government to look at regulating access to grain handlers

Fri Jul 8, 2011 12:44pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada is considering a request by the Canadian Wheat Board for regulated access to private grain handlers once the board loses its monopoly, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday, but he added that such access may not be enforceable.

The Conservative government, which holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons, plans to pass legislation this autumn to scrap the world's last major agricultural monopoly as of August 2012.

The Wheat Board has no grain-handling and storage facilities or retained earnings and has asked Ottawa to give it regulated access at favorable rates and times to private handlers and capital, if it tries to compete in the open market.

"We're looking at all avenues moving forward. Certainly that is on the table," Ritz said in a conference call with reporters. "But these are private sector companies that offer services. I'm not sure that regulation could be enforceable but we'll take a look at all ideas that come forward."

Ottawa will likely come under intense pressure from private grain handlers not to impose new regulations and it's unlikely to mesh with the Conservative government's aim to open markets.

Western Canada's biggest grain handlers are Viterra Inc, Richardson International Limited and Cargill Inc. Grain handlers have said they would work with the Wheat Board even in a competitive marketing system, but the CWB has expressed doubts.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, the president of Richardson, Curt Vossen, said he doesn't want to see the Wheat Board gain any government-granted advantage.

"To create regulations to give it validity, an artificial flow of capital ... we would be very clearly against."   Continued...

<p>The Sawyer family harvests their crop of wheat with combines near Acme, Alberta, September 23, 2009. Alberta, a key growing area of spring wheat and canola, has been hit hard this year by cool weather and drought. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>