Canada Wheat Board bill becomes law, Ottawa takes control

Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:41pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Rod Nickel

OTTAWA/WINNIPEG (Reuters) - The Canadian Parliament gave final approval on Thursday to a government bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board's 68-year-old grain marketing monopoly, allowing the government to take control of the board from farmers who oppose its plans.

Legal challenges, however, threaten to leave farmers and the grain industry in limbo into the New Year.

The Senate easily passed the Conservative government's legislation to end the CWB's monopoly on sales of western wheat and barley for export or milling next August and allow farmers to sell those crops to whomever they choose.

Later on Thursday, Canada's governor general gave the bill royal assent, making it the law.

The Wheat Board has already asked a Manitoba court to declare the legislation invalid and will be in court on Friday morning to ask for implementation of the law to be temporarily suspended until the court decides whether to strike it down.

The board is seeking to build on a Federal Court decision last week that declared that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz had breached existing law by not consulting with the Wheat Board or holding a farmer vote before introducing the legislation.

That Federal Court ruling did not kill the bill, but the Wheat Board has now asked the Manitoba court to do so.

With the bill becoming law, the eight farmer-elected directors are removed from the CWB board, leaving it controlled by five government appointees.   Continued...