Friday, June 4, 2010

Secretary, take a letter

A while back, as part of my "Ministers Against Portfolio" series, I wrote an article about the anti-farmer policies of our Minister against Agriculture Gerry Ritz. One of the things I noted was that Minister Ritz carries a long-time enmity toward the Canadian Wheat Board and wishes to dismantle it, despite the valuable market power it provides to farmers.

Over a month later, a letter to the editor of the Barrie Examiner was published from David Anderson, a Saskatchewan Conservative MP. I've copied his letter below.

All farmers should have same rights

(Re: 'Agriculture minister out of touch with area farmers,' in the March 25 edition of the Examiner)

I would like to respond to Erich Jacoby-Hawkins' column. It is important that Mr. Jacoby-Hawkins have a better understanding of Western Canadian agriculture issues.

Our government has good reason to work towards giving Western Canadian farmers marketing freedom.

The Canadian Wheat Board is ineffective at marketing grain, and is just too expensive for Western Canadian grain farmers. Perhaps he does not realize that the CWB failed to market almost half of the durum grown in Western Canada last year.

As a producer, I am forced to leave that inventory in my bin until the CWB decides to sell it. I have no option -- in fact I cannot sell it and the CWB refuses to give me the permits to do it on my own, even if I find buyers for it.

Unbelievable? I'm afraid not. We live with this disastrous situation year after year.

Even worse, the organic growers are charged 25 cents per bushel just so they can market their own grain. The CWB takes its cut but does nothing. Again, while it may seem bizarre, this is the reality under the CWB.

Eastern farmers have complete control over their grain, can strategize and have flexibility in managing their own sales and cash flow.

Western Canadian grain farmers should have the same rights that all other Canadian farmers enjoy. They want to be able to choose who they sell their grain to and when.

It is our responsibility to see that they are given that opportunity.

David Anderson
Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP
Parliamentary Secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board

Well, it did actually sound pretty unbelievable to me. First, that someone who is so opposed to the CWB is the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of it - sounds like a clear conflict of interest to me. Likewise, because as a wester wheat farmer, he has direct financial dealings with them. Most chilling, that a sub-cabinet member would make such a disparaging public statement about the organization of his own portfolio. (I hereby dub him "Parliamentary Secretary Against the Canadian Wheat Board").

But I also found it hard to believe his lament about not being allowed to sell his wheat. Could Canada really have a system that forces farmers to watch their own crops rot, with no alternative? Never having been a western wheat farmer myself, I asked Kate Storey, former agriculture critic for the Green Party and herself a western grain farmer, for advice. She confirmed that Anderson was lying, although in gentler language; her letter is below.

Wheat farmers need MP's support

(Re: 'All farmers should have the same rights' in the May 18 edition of the Examiner)

I am replying to Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP David Anderson's letter to this paper attacking the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). As western wheat farmer, I object to the misinformation being spread by those who want to take the CWB away from western wheat farmers.

Mr. Anderson offers the farmer "marketing freedom", which means the freedom to be exploited by grain-buying oligopolies. In case ya'll don't know what that means, there are only a few major grain buyers in Canada, and they are driving the price down. The CWB was created by farmers for just this situation. The CWB protects the farmer by bringing the price back up. The CWB is strong enough to stand up to the grain buyers, while individual farmers are not.

The fact that David Anderson still has durum wheat in the bin is a red herring. The world market is oversupplied on wheat this year and all grains are a tough sell.

This has nothing to do with the CWB. In fact, the marketing power of the CWB has probably moved more of the Canadian wheat crop than would have otherwise been sold this crop year.

David Anderson does have options. He can market his grain privately anytime he wants. Yes, he does have to pay a fee to do that, but consider it a toll levied by the rest of western wheat growers onto farmers like David Anderson, who want to undercut our co-operative marketing efforts.

Western Canadian farmers fought hard to get the Canadian Wheat Board. We understand it's advantages and we want to keep it. David Anderson should be working with us, not against us.

Kate Storey
Grandview, Man.

Thank you to Kate for setting the record straight. And poo-poo to the "honourable" representative for Cypress Hills-Grassland for spreading falsehoods.


  1. FYI - David Anderson is a Saskatchewan MP, not Alberta. His farm is just down the highway from where I live.

  2. Thanks for the catch, I've corrected it now.

    Is his bin still full of unsold grain?

  3. No idea.... I could go check but then you run into all those "private property" and "registered long gun" problems. If I see him around town, I'll ask.