Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The End of the Wheat Board

The Tories have it in for the Wheat Board. Ever since they were the Reform Party they have had an active front group; Farmers for Justice.

This little rump of border jumping farmers is now getting to have a private meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, but the majority of Farmers who are represented on the Wheat Board are not invited.

In light of the G8 reccomendation that the WTO meet in August to discuss farm subsidies what could this mean? The end of the Wheat Board in a back room deal by the Tories. Talk about lack of transparency and accountability, and the hidden sixth priority.

Art Macklin a farmer and board member of the WB warned about this back in April.

The U.S. and EU want to remove that decision from Canadian farmers. At the WTO talks, their negotiators have been clear that they want an end to the single desk selling authority of organizations like the CWB. Organizations that, in trade lingo, are called State Trading Enterprises (STEs).

The WTO position of the U.S. and EU, whose companies are some of our biggest competitors in the world market, would basically outlaw farmers' ability to have an effective organization able to compete with these companies. It would make it illegal for any farm group in any country to establish a marketing organization that had bargaining powers backed by legislation. It wouldn't matter whether 51 per cent or 100 per cent of the farmers democratically voted in favour of the concept, as it would be illegal under WTO rules.

Those companies are actively working behind the scenes to ensure that happens. On February 27, 2006, an organization calling itself 'Grain Vision' sent a letter to Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food; and Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board urging the government to change its negotiating position at the WTO. The letter was also addressed to David Emerson, Minister of International Trade.

It stated; \"Cabinet needs to change this position (defending the CWB). We are asking you, as the Ministers responsible for the negotiating position, to immediately put the need for this change on the Cabinet agenda …We ask that you begin to provide greater consistency in Canada's negotiating position by allowing our agricultural negotiators to explicitly bring the monopoly powers of state trading enterprises into the discussions….For greater clarity, Grain Vision is recommending that the Government of Canada be prepared to discuss and negotiate the matter of exporting state trading enterprises at the WTO.\"

Predictably, 'Grain Vision' is driven by the interests of a collection of grain companies that stand to make a handsome profit from the end of the CWB. The list of companies signing the letter includes: Cargill Limited, Louis Dreyfus Canada Limited, Rahr Malting Canada Limited, Agricore United (a company whose largest single shareholder is ADM), Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (no longer a farmer cooperative), James Richardson International Limited. The letter was also signed by a handful of groups like the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and the Western Barley Growers. Those groups often claim to be a legitimate voice of farmers but in reality would not exist without the sponsorship largess of big corporations. Some urban chambers of commerce, some Alberta government mandated farm groups, the Grain Growers of Canada, and a few other groups also signed the letter.

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