Court to rule Wednesday on Canada Wheat Board

Tue Dec 6, 2011 7:12pm EST
 
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A Canadian judge said he will issue a decision on Wednesday in the Canadian Wheat Board's last-ditch attempt to let farmers, not government, decide whether the board keeps its 68-year-old grain marketing monopoly.

The board and its supporters asked Justice Douglas Campbell in a Winnipeg federal court on Tuesday to declare that Canadian agriculture minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by not consulting the board or holding a farmer vote before moving this autumn to end the board's grain marketing monopoly.

Such a declaration would not compel the government to change course, but it would at least alter perceptions of an issue that Ritz has described as being about "marketing freedom."

The Conservative government's bill to end the monopoly as of August 1, 2012, has passed through Canada's House of Commons and needs senate approval and royal assent before becoming law.

The current law requires that the government consult the board and let farmers vote on any change to which grains fall under the CWB monopoly, which applies to wheat and barley for milling or export.

Canada is the top exporter of spring wheat, durum and malting barley.

The Wheat Board's lawyers argued that changes to the law in 1998 under a Liberal government give farmers the authority to decide changes to the monopoly, while the government maintains the law isn't so broad. The CWB also said that Agriculture Minister Ritz and other Conservatives created "legitimate expectations" leading up to last spring's election that the monopoly would stay unless farmers decided otherwise in a vote.

"This is all about fairness and the minister's conduct was unfair and contrary to the law," said Wheat Board lawyer John McDougall.   Continued...