Canada Wheat Board bill moves closer to law

Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:45pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A government bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board's grain monopoly cleared another stage in the House of Commons on Monday, as Ottawa races to make the most important change to Western Canada's grain industry since World War 2.

The Conservative government's bill passed second reading and now moves to a committee of legislators.

The bill would end the CWB's monopoly as of August 2012 on marketing Western Canada's wheat and barley for milling or export, allowing farmers to sell those crops to any buyer.

It still requires a third and final reading by legislators and the government expects the bill to become law by the end of 2011.

Political debate has focused more on defending democracy than the intricacies of grain marketing, reflecting deep divisions among farmers themselves.

The government argues that farmers should not be forced to sell their crops through the Wheat Board, while the Wheat Board points out that 62 percent of farmers voted to retain the wheat monopoly in its non-binding summer ballot.

Wheat Board supporters have said dismantling the monopoly will result in foreign interests taking control of Canada's wheat production, which usually ranks No. 6 in the world.

"Private companies will no doubt try to gather up the Wheat Board's C$6 billion ($6 billion) in annual sales to enhance shareholder value for their owners, not for farmers," said Opposition Liberal legislator Ralph Goodale in the House of Commons. "...Why does the government think farmers are better off with all key decisions about Canadian grain being made (on grain futures exchanges) in Minneapolis, Chicago or Kansas City?"   Continued...