The Canadian Wheat Board will cease to be farmers’ organization under new legislation tabled today in Ottawa, said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB’s governing board of directors.
“The CWB will no longer be controlled by farmers or focused on farmers,” said Oberg, a farmer from Forestburg, Alberta. “This is not about giving farmers choice, it’s about ignoring the choices they’ve already made. Farmers chose the CWB single desk in our plebiscite this summer, when tens of thousands voted to keep it. Farmers choose the people who run the CWB in director elections, and they repeatedly choose farmer-directors who value the single desk.
“This is not about putting farmers in the drivers’ seat – it’s about throwing us under the bus, and handing the steering wheel to huge American and European multinationals that control the world’s grain trade.”
If passed, the legislation will immediately remove the 10 farmer-elected directors from the helm of the CWB, creating a new governing structure consisting of five government appointees. It also paves the way for an ill-defined voluntary organization that is intended to be transitioned into a private, for-profit corporation, Oberg said.
“Farmers’ hard-fought success in controlling their own marketing organization will be destroyed. After 13 years at the helm of the CWB, we will lose our power and our premium returns. And we will be asked to simply trust that ‘market forces’ will somehow uphold our interests.
“The government is abandoning farmers and betraying the legitimate expectations we all had when control was passed to us in 1998. No longer will we elect the people who run the CWB, no longer will hold marketing power, no longer will we see the profits of grain sales returned directly to our farms.”
The CWB Act was amended in 1998 to pass governance of the organization from federal commissioners to a farmer-controlled board of directors. It also enabled creation of new payment programs that gave farmers control over their cash flow. The legislation introduced today turns back the clock and erases those gains for farmers, Oberg said.
“The Harper government is taking us all back in time: to the years when farmers were captive to grain companies and powerless against railways. And they are doing this against the wishes of farmers.” Oberg said he is recalling the CWB board of directors for a special meeting in Winnipeg early next week to review the legislation and make decisions about next steps.
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