Bill to scrap Canadian Wheat Board monopoly advances

Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:22pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A government bill to scrap the Canadian Wheat Board's grain marketing monopoly cleared the final stage of approval by Canada's House of Commons on Monday, leaving it all but certain to become law next month.

The bill would end the Wheat Board's six-decade old marketing monopoly for Western Canada's wheat and barley for milling or export, as of August 2012, the start of the 2012/13 crop marketing year.

The new law would alter the western grain industry as farmers could immediately commit next year's crops to private grain handlers like Viterra and Richardson International Limited through forward price contracts.

Agriculture ministers from Canada's two-biggest wheat-growing provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, repeated their support for the bill from the federal Conservative government. Both provincial governments have strong ties to the Conservatives.

"All producers are asking here for is the choice to market their own grain - they have no vendetta to see the end of the Wheat Board," Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud told reporters in Ottawa.

Manitoba, the province in which the Wheat Board is based, opposes the bill, saying it will result in lower returns to farmers, a loss of jobs and a reduction in shipping through its northern port of Churchill.

Farmers have long been divided over the Wheat Board monopoly, although a majority surveyed in a non-binding summer poll by the CWB favored keeping the wheat monopoly.

"(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper, in one fell swoop, is destroying farmers' marketing agency," said farmer Terry Boehm, president of the Canadian office of the National Farmers Union.   Continued...