FINLEY: The future of the Canadian Wheat Board is Canada

FINLEY: The future of the Canadian Wheat Board is Canada

Postby Oscar » Mon Sep 08, 2008 2:55 pm

The Honourable Gary Lunn, P.C., MP
Saanich and the Gulf Islands
Minister of Natural Resources, House of Commons

Sept 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Lunn,

Re: The future of the Canadian Wheat Board is Canada

Thank you for your reply to my letter and history of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). I welcome the opportunity to debate this critical issue with the Conservative party. I speak with no affiliation or affection for any party, but as a member of the CWB, and through the experience of my grandfather, pioneer wheat farmer, who fought hard to establish a fair and orderly marketing system in which farmers had a voice and a vote.

I’m increasingly alarmed at the zeal with which Mr. Harper has attempted to destroy and silence the CWB. The CWB is not a “draconian wheat monopoly” that relies on “force and fear” to exist as Mr. Harper put it, but a single-desk marketing board, elected by farmers, designed to market wheat and barley, in an orderly manner, for a fair price. It was created by the demands of 50,000 farmers in western Canada who could not manage the high environmental risks of farming, as well as the wild fluctuations in prices created by the grain merchants and the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. The farmer’s battle was against the grain companies, commodity speculators, and their political cronies in Ottawa.

Cronies like Brian Mulroney. When Prime minister Brian Mulroney signed NAFTA, the giant American food corporations rubbed their hands with glee. Before the ink was dry, the largest of them, Archer Daniels Midland, went on a buying spree, snapping up Canadian sugar and flour processing companies. Next, the monopolies fixed their sights on the CWB, challenging its legitimacy over and over in the international courts. They lost over and over. And there was the former Canadian prime minister, sitting on ADM’s board, holding shares worth millions. The CEO of ADM told American shareholders that with the “ Right Honourable Brian Mulroney” on their board they were getting “a big bang for their buck”. On the board of a corporation that received the largest anti-trust fine in American history. A board that pays out millions in political contributions toward industrial agriculture policy. A board that can buy a Canadian prime minister. Brian Mulroney’s (the man who pocketed hundreds of thousands in cash from Schreiber, then sued Canada for defamation), first lucrative patronage dividend, after he signed NAFTA, was a position on the board of ADM. This was the Conservative leader who campaigned on the promise that Canada would not enter NAFTA.

Draconian monopoly, indeed ! You might read ‘Rats in the Grain’ - The Dirty Tricks And Trials of Archer Daniels Midland. (Lieber 2000) for an eye opener on the company that Mr. Mulroney still serves. What is to prevent Mr. Harper from receiving future patronage dividends and a position on the board ?

You say that “Our government has a mandate to enact choice for grain producers”. The farmers gave your party no such mandate and neither did we constituents. The Supreme Court ruled that your party’s actions to stifle the CWB were illegal.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the only democratically-elected organization that stands between the family farm and foreign control of our most vital food source. This is a critical issue for all Canadians, and it is just one of the reasons why we have chosen a minority government, one of the healthiest forms of democracy.

Sincerely

James K. Finley

P.S. VITERRA is the largest grain buying and handling monopoly in Canada, with revenues of 3.5 billion in 2007, 42% of the market share and full control of the grain handling facilities. As stated in its annual report, Viterra is now positioned for further consolidation, “ vertical integration” of the market, and expansion of “existing relationships with key international partners”. Under the topic of risk management, the main uncertainty, apart from weather, is the electorate, and whether the minority Conservative government will be able to carry through with its promise to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. If it does, Viterra will be ideally poised to achieve “superior operating effectiveness in a new regulatory environment”. Under NAFTA, of course, VITERRA is fair game for takeover by American trans-national monopolies like Archer Daniels Midland, with sales of 44 billion and the largest number of grain elevators in America. In other words, its big fish eat little fish, from the family farm all the way to the giant transnational food corporations.
Last edited by Oscar on Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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CALVIN: Tories Target Easter

Postby Oscar » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:08 pm

September 22, 2008

PO Box 114
New Norway, Alberta, T0B 3L0

Letters to the Editor
The Western Producer via facsimile.

Re: Tories Target Easter,
Western Producer, September 11, 2008.

I can readily believe that the Conservatives would not like Wayne Easter. Mr. Easter has spent a lot of time involved in agricultural politics, not only in his home province, but also in western Canada. Mr. Easter knows a lot about western Canada, having spent ten years as president of the National Farmers Union, so he does not put up with Conservative nonsense.

Typical of this nonsense is the quote from the campaign manager for Wayne’s Conservative opponent in this election who claims Easter has “a poor agricultural record when in government” (WP, 09-11-2008). Mr. Easter’s record is much better than that of his Conservative foes.

Consider the illegal and undemocratic acts the Conservatives have pulled in trying to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Three times the courts have ruled Conservative actions on the CWB are illegal. One judge even compared the actions of the Conservatives to the dictator in Zimbabwe. The Conservative record is one of deregulation, illegality and now the death of more than a dozen people from food poisoning under their watch.

In contrast Mr. Easter has stood up for farmers and those we feed throughout his political career, something the Conservatives certainly cannot claim.

Sincerely,
copy, orginal signed by:
George A. Calvin.
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BEINGESSNER: If They Love the Open Market

Postby Oscar » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:56 pm

Column # 694 If They Love the Open Market 10/11/08

My neighbour Pete is a cattleman to the core. Like his father and grandfather before him, he knows cows like the back of his hand. But his usual smile fades a bit these days when the discussion turns to the cattle industry. Whose doesn't? Calf prices are as bad as they've been since the beginning of the BSE crisis, and industry analysts claim there is no good news in sight.

If Pete were into hogs, he would likely be even grimmer, especially if he were unfortunate enough to be a weanling producer in Manitoba. A few months ago weanling producers were talking of having to euthanize piglets for which there was no market. And that was before Country of Origin Labeling was implemented in the U.S. Now that hog packers in the U.S. know the details of COOL, they aren't much interested in Canadian born or raised pigs. This will only get worse as the April 1 date for full implementation of the rules approaches.

You have to give it to American farmers. They worked for many years to persuade their lawmakers and citizens that COOL was indeed a cool idea. Industry watchers in Canada spent those years alternating between "it'll never happen" and "watch out for this one". Don't expect COOL to disappear any time soon either. American politics is likely to become more protectionist in the future, not less.

Opponents of the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk have seen the domestic American market as their fairy-tale ending for years. Higher American prices, derived from feeding that large population, have been the lure that has convinced some that they would be better off if they could go it alone and beat their neighbours to that lucrative, but limited, market. Pete has some advice for these farmers, based on his lifetime in the cattle industry. "If there guys are so fond of the open market, they should get into the cattle business."

His pithy statement, repeated twice for emphasis, captured a real insight. Without access to American grain markets, the idea of an open market for wheat and barley loses an awful lot of luster. And anyone who thinks that access isn't tenuous hasn't been watching for the past two decades. American grain markets have remained available to the CWB, in fits and starts, but only because of continual legal battles fought by the CWB.

American farmers are acutely aware that prices often swing based on very small changes in supply. Before BSE, Canadian beef was a very small part of the American market, yet the border closure caused cattle prices in the U.S. to soar to record heights.

While the amount of grain we send to the U.S. is small compared to American production, its absence would no doubt cause their prices to rise, as millers would have to scramble to find the high quality wheat that is in short supply there. Most CWB wheat and durum moving to the U.S. now goes down in rail cars, directly to mills. An open market would see an influx of grain trying to move by truck into American elevators when prices were high. Of course, that is also when American farmers are trying to deliver into a constrained system. The visual effect on American farmers would be powerful.

It took a long concerted effort to limit Canadian hogs and cattle exports to the U.S., but for their farmers the taste of victory is sweet. You can expect our herds to contract to a far greater extent that theirs because of it.

You can also expect American grain farmers to continue to push in every way possible to keep Canadian grain out. Up until now, farmers' greatest defense has been the money they've spent through the CWB's court challenges. Changes to the CWB's mandate would end such efforts. The transnational grain companies that will control the Canadian grain trade in that event have little interest in keeping the American market open, since they get their pound of flesh no matter where our grain ends up.

Pete knows that. That's why he says we need the CWB.

© Paul Beingessner (306) 868-4734 beingessner@sasktel.net
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