Canada Wheat Board to fight Ottawa in court

Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:58pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian Wheat Board said on Wednesday it will launch legal action to stop the Conservative government from ending the CWB's generations-old grain marketing monopoly, though a politician who supports the board's fight says it has little chance of succeeding.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said however that the challenge could set back efforts to revamp the Wheat Board to compete effectively for crops next year in an open market.

The board is filing the suit because the government is moving to create the open market system without holding a farmer vote on the issue, as current legislation requires, CWB chairman Allen Oberg said.

The government is instead seeking to replace the legislation.

"Governments can either obey the law, they can change the law, but the can't ignore the law, and that's what's happened here," Oberg said at a news conference on a Manitoba farm.

Ottawa aims to pass legislation by the end of 2011 to terminate the Wheat Board's monopoly on marketing Western Canadian wheat and barley for milling or export as of August 1, 2012. The change would allow farmers to sell those crops directly to grain handlers.

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

The Wheat Board's legal action is baseless, Ritz told reporters. The current legislation only requires a farmer vote on changing the commodities that they sell under the CWB monopoly, not the existence of the monopoly itself, he said.   Continued...

<p>An ear of wheat is seen on the Canadian prairies near Lethbridge, Alberta, September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>