Wheat Board urges Canada lawmakers to keep monopoly

Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:55pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

(Reuters) - Supporters of the Canadian Wheat Board took their protest to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, in a last-ditch effort to sway legislators to keep the world's last major agricultural monopoly.

Several Wheat Board directors, as well as a few Prairie grain farmers, urged the Conservative government to drop plans to end the CWB's marketing monopoly on Western Canadian wheat and barley destined for milling or export.

Legislation to end the monopoly as of August 2012 would allow western farmers to sell grain directly to grain handlers, and may be only a few weeks from becoming law.

"Eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board will cost Prairie farmers money, cost Canadian jobs, be a drain on taxpayers and change the nature of the country because thousands of family farms will disappear," CWB Chairman Allen Oberg said in Ottawa.

A Wheat Board spokeswoman said the directors planned to meet with members of Parliament and senators this week in Ottawa.

The CWB monopoly, which has been in place since World War 2, has long divided western farmers. Supporters say the monopoly's marketing clout offers them the greatest returns, but others say they want the same flexibility in selling wheat and barley that they have with crops like canola and oats.

Alberta farmer Brian Otto, a longtime foe of the monopoly and head of the Western Barley Growers Association, said the Wheat Board debate has gone on for decades and farmers have had their say.

The end of the monopoly does not threaten small farms who rely on the CWB to sell their crops, Otto said.   Continued...