Farmer Priorities Sidelined By Federal Focus on CWB: CWB 2011 Producer Survey

Jul 6, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Spiraling costs of farm inputs and grain transportation, and the challenges of extreme weather, are the three overwhelming problems for Prairie farmers, according to the CWB’s 2011 producer survey, released this week. Farmers indicated that these problems far outweighed all other concerns, including those related to grain prices and marketing.

Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB’s farmer-controlled board of directors, said the survey suggests the federal government’s agricultural priorities are misplaced.

Allen Oberg

“Farmers would be far better served if government attention and resources were squarely directed at the real issues that are hurting our profitability,” said Oberg, a farmer from Forestburg, Alberta. “Instead, we find ourselves engaged in an ideological battle over a successful marketing structure that a majority of Prairie producers support.”

The survey results also reinforce the need for a plebiscite to clarify farmers’ wishes on the future of grain marketing in Western Canada, Oberg said.

Overall support for the CWB was similar to previous surveys at 67 per cent, while farmer perceptions of the organization continue to improve. A full third of farmers said their impression of the CWB is more favourable than two years ago, while only a tenth felt worse – one of the largest positive gaps in the survey’s history. Moreover, the CWB was seen as making progress in areas that farmers considered their top priorities, including getting premium prices for Canadian wheat and maintaining its high-quality reputation.

Despite these responses, support for single-desk marketing dropped from last spring’s survey (although still above results for 2008). When asked to choose between the CWB and the open market for wheat, 63 per cent of respondents with an opinion preferred the CWB, compared to 69 per cent in 2010.

“There is substantial evidence that farmers think the CWB is doing a good job and that perceptions are improving,” said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB’s farmer-controlled board of directors. “That conflicts with the changes in farmer support for the single-desk approach. We don’t know if this is a sampling effect, a cyclical shift, the result of government campaigns or something more fundamental.

“That’s why it is so crucially important that this issue be put to a vote. It is the only fair and democratic way for farmers to make their wishes clear on the future of the CWB.”

The federal government intends to introduce legislation this fall that will dismantle the CWB’s single desk by August 1, 2012 without a farmer plebiscite as the law currently requires. The CWB is holding its own plebiscite for farmers to give them an opportunity their views on the important question of grain marketing, with ballots to be mailed out next week and returned by August 24, 2011.

The survey also shows that farmers overwhelmingly agree (89 per cent) that the CWB should care about landholders of all sizes – not just focus on the largest producers. This view was strongly held even among those who farm more than 2500 acres (77 per cent agreed).

The survey was fielded among 900 producers in the three Prairie provinces. It is considered accurate within 3.24 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Results have been posted at .

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of Canada’s biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to over 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, less marketing costs, to farmers.

For more information, please contact:

Maureen Fitzhenry
CWB media relations manager
Tel: (204) 983-3101;
Cell: (204) 227-6927
[email protected] 

2011 CWB Producer Survey

Summary of key points:

Farmers’ biggest problems are unrelated to grain prices or marketing:

  • Input costs were seen as the biggest problem, concerning 91 per cent of respondents.
  • Transportation costs were the second biggest worry, rated a problem by 89%.
  • Weather conditions were third, seen as a problem by 85%.
  • Grain prices and lack of markets were identified as problems by less than 60%.

The CWB continues to have a strong support base among farmers:

  • 67% said they support the CWB (43% “strongly”), a similar level to last year.
  • 35% said their impression of the CWB is more favourable than two years ago, and only 12% said it was worse.
  • Even those who “somewhat oppose” the CWB said their impressions of it had improved. Only in the small group who “strongly oppose” the CWB did more people have a negative impression.
  • 73% agreed with the statement, “The CWB is doing a better job than it used to.”
  • Improved perceptions of the CWB were overwhelmingly linked to its provision of more pricing and marketing options for farmers.
  • 71% agreed that grain farmers have more influence over the CWB than a multinational
  • 66% said the CWB provides them with a sense of security
  • 63% disagreed with the statement “I would make more money if the CWB did not exist.”

A majority of farmer support the single desk for wheat:

  • 63% of those with an opinion said they prefer the CWB single desk over an open market for wheat. This is a drop from 2010 (69%), but above 2008 support levels.
  • 37% of all respondents preferred a single desk for barley, compared to 41% last year.

The CWB is perceived as making progress on farmers’ priorities:

  • Getting a premium price for Canadian wheat was the top farmer priority, ranked a “very high priority” by 84% of respondents. The CWB was seen as making progress in this area by 71%.
  • Getting new markets for Canadian wheat and maintaining its high-quality reputation were both very high priorities for 82%. The CWB was seen as making progress here by 75% and 85%, respectively.
  • Branding Canadian wheat in key markets as a unique, high-value product was a very high priority for 78%. The CWB was seen as making progress here by 79%.

Farmers overwhelmingly believe that size doesn’t matter:

  • 89% of respondent agreed that the CWB should care about landholders of all sizes. This belief was overwhelmingly shared by all farmers, regardless of their own farm size, including 77% of those farming more than 2,500 acres.

Fewer producers feel a sense of ownership of the CWB:

  • There was an even split between those who felt a sense of ownership over the CWB and those who did not. Last year, 59% said they felt a sense of ownership.
  • 60% rated the CWB as “excellent” or “fair” in being accountable to farmers, 62% thought it was open and transparent, while 68% thought it was honest in its communications with farmers.

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