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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 08:20

Group urges saving Canadian Wheat Board

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By Jamie Woodford
Southern Alberta
Southern Alberta farmers descended upon the parking lot at MP Jim Hillyer’s office Nov. 8 to rally against what they say is the federal government’s undemocratic action of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

“It never hurt us, why do they want to take that away?” asked Wendell Wandler, a hard spring wheat and durum farmer based north of Picture Butte.

He wants the wheat board to stay the way it is, and for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to follow the law.

“Sixty-two per cent of the farmers want to keep the wheat board monopoly and 51 per cent of barley (farmers),” he said citing the farmer plebiscite held this summer.

“Now 62 or 51 per cent, isn’t that a majority? Can’t (Harper) listen, or he can’t figure out what 51 per cent is?”

Wandler said the CWB’s current system as a single-desk works just fine for him.

He worries farmers will get less money for their wares should legislation pass that would strip the board of its monopoly.

“I’m a small farmer; I’ll most probably lose a load of money,” he said.

“The grain companies are going to make money and the farmers are going to have to sell it for as much as he can get, and hopefully, it’s going to be the best that he can get.”

Wandler sold durum recently at $4.05 per bushel even though the CWB has projected the price will likely rise to about $9.37 by the end of the crop year. Wandler never worried about getting cheated financially through the board.

“I don’t have to worry about my money or my grain,” he said. “I sold my grain last year at a lower price than what they sold it for. I’m going to get that back.”

However, next year, should the law go through, could be another story, he said.

“(If) I sell my grain to Cargill for $7 or $8, I don’t know what their prices are going to be next year. I don’t think anybody does because it’s going to be an open market, right? So they’re going to try to buy my grain as cheap as they can ... they’re going to make money off of my grain,” he said. “They’re going to say ‘Mr. Wandler, I feel sorry for you. Come Jan. 1, we’re going to give you $3 a bushel for what you sold us because we made that much money.’ That ain’t going to happen.”

Bev Muendel-Atherstone, the NDP candidate for Little Bow Constituency, was among the crowd of farmers and other supporters.

She, too, noted Harper isn’t following the law.

“We have the Canadian Wheat Board law on the books, and Section 47.1 says farmers and the wheat board must be consulted prior to any restructuring of the wheat board — that’s clear,” she said. “So just because (Harper) has a bill now, which is going through Parliament — that he’s railroading through — that bill can not supercede a law which is (already) in place, so he must listen to the farmers.”

Bill C-18 passed second reading in the House of Commons last week. It will need to be read a third time, and if passed, the bill would be given to the Senate for another three readings. Should the bill pass in the Senate, it would then be sent back to the House and presented to the Governor General for royal assent.

According to Muendel-Atherstone, those wheat board advocates were only given one hour to make a presentation to the House committee at second reading.

“They curtailed a discussion on the wheat board, so this is really a sign of the lack of democracy in Canada, how the prime minister is eroding democracy,” she said. “There should be much more discussion on this. It can’t just be pushed through in a few weeks and that’s the end of a 75-year institution. It was brought in to give farmers an opportunity to band together and to stand up and get a better price for their wheat.”

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