Western Canada farmers back grain monopoly in nonbinding vote

Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:41pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Nearly two-thirds of Western Canada's farmers want to keep a decades-old monopoly system for selling their grain, according to a non-binding vote that is unlikely to derail plans to open the market.

The mail-in vote, which Ottawa said was flawed, appears to entrench both sides in their adversarial positions with less than 11 months to design any new model for the Canadian Wheat Board if it is to continue operating once the monopoly ends in August 2012.

Farmers in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and part of British Columbia are required by law to sell their wheat and barley (other than for domestic animal feed use) to the Wheat Board, which then pools the grain for sale in Canada or for export. The government wants to open the market, giving farmers a choice of buyers for their crops.

Farmers who support the Wheat Board monopoly believe it gives them to the best prices.

Sixty-two percent of those who responded, or 22,764 farmers, voted to keep the CWB's single-desk system, the last major agricultural monopoly and one that controls most of the supplies from the biggest exporter of spring wheat, durum and malting barley.

The other 38 percent voted for an open market system, the election coordinator said on Monday.

The vote was nearly evenly split for barley marketing, with 51 percent of respondents, or 6,283 farmers, voting to keep the CWB's monopoly and 49 percent, or 6,014, voting for the open market.

The rate for returned ballots was 56 percent.   Continued...

<p>Farmers harvest their wheat crop during sunset on the Canadian prairies near Vulcan, Alberta, September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>