Canada to downsize Wheat Board, end grain monopoly

Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:41pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian government put forward long-promised legislation on Tuesday to dismantle Western Canada's grain-marketing monopoly, and gave the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) five years to implement a business plan to survive in an open market.

In draft legislation presented to Parliament, the Conservative government offered the CWB certain financial guarantees, but said it would not provide seed capital or regulated access to grain handlers after the board loses its grain marketing monopoly.

The monopoly's removal would allow western farmers to sell directly to grain handlers, instead of marketing those crops only through the Wheat Board.

"The sky will not fall in an open market," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a press conference on an Ottawa-area farm. "Instead, the sky will be the limit."

Canada is the world's biggest exporter of spring wheat, durum and malting barley, mostly through the Wheat Board.

Ottawa also plans to remove the 10 farmer-elected directors on the board, most of whom favor keeping the monopoly, leaving government appointees in charge.

"This is not about putting farmers in the driver's seat, it's about removing us altogether and handing the steering wheel to huge, foreign corporations that control the world's grain trade," said Allen Oberg, a farmer-elected director and chairman of the Wheat Board.

The Conservatives hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons and don't need opposition support to pass legislation.   Continued...

<p>Canadian wheat grows in a field near Teulon, Manitoba, July 26, 2006. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>