A group representing Swan River/Pelly farmers, which has as its main goal to have the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) reinstated, unanimously passed a resolution to that effect at an open meeting on February 10 in Swan River.
More than 50 farmers from the Swan River and Pelly areas participated in the meeting which concluded with unanimous support for the resolution calling for “the re-establishment of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), and single-desk selling of grain in western Canada.”
Kyle Korneychuk of Pelly, spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, an independent and non-partisan prairie-wide farm group noted: “The fact that a farm meeting of this size could unanimously pass this resolution is a strong indication to Ottawa that farmers are now feeling the loss of the CWB in their pocketbooks.”
Korneychuk thanked Ron Kostyshyn, the Manitoba minister of agriculture, and the elected rural municipal (RM) councillors from both provinces for their support at the meeting.
“Farmers respect those who consistently support them as this minister has demonstrated,” he said.
Responding to a study by Dr. Richard Gray of the University of Saskatchewan that showed that farmers have lost about $6.5 billion in the past two years, Kostyshyn said he is “very concerned about the financial situation of farmers since the loss of the CWB.”
The minister also expressed concern about the future of the rail line to the Swan River valley as well as the rail line to Churchill. RM councillors expressed concerns about the recent closures of elevators and the long-term implications for the rail line.
The meeting, chaired by Walter Kolisnyk, a farmer from Minitonas, Man., heard presentations from the Kostyshyn, representatives like Korneychuk of the Wheat Board Alliance; and Ken Sigurdson, a Swan River grain farmer. Korneychuk was introduced as a farmer-elected director of the former Canadian Wheat Board who was dismissed, along with his colleagues, when Gerry Ritz, the former federal agriculture minister, passed legislation that ended the Canadian Wheat Board. Korneychuk explained that last year, the Harper government transferred the remaining assets of the CWB to a company jointly owned by the Government of Saudi Arabia and Bunge, one of the world’s largest private grain traders.
Sigurdson pointed out that from Gray’s study, it was obvious that when compared with the single-desk CWB’s annual audited statements, that with the single-desk system, prairie farmers received more than 90 per cent of the port price. Now, without the single-desk, farmers receive between 40-60 per cent of the port price for their wheat.
Using Manitoba Crop Insurance data, Sigurdson calculated the loss to the Swan River Valley to be more than $70 million over the last two years.
"This money is lost to farmers and the community and transferred directly to grain handling companies and railways," he said.
Korneychuk explained that the CWB co-ordinated logistics to move grain from the farm gate via rail to port and then usually arranged ocean freight direct to end-use customers. He noted that “this integrated single-desk system allowed us to provide a high quality branded product into the world market. It allowed us to return almost the full value of the world price to farmers. Farmers only paid for the CWB’s operating expenses but now they pay for the private trade’s operating expenses and the profits to foreign shareholders and grain company owners.”
Korneychuk went on to observe that under the system controlled by grain companies, blending program such as the one used to deal with fusarium are no longer being provided and protein premiums are now small and infrequent.
Sigurdson predicted that when short-term federal subsidies to the Port of Churchill end next year, it will be the next casualty caused by the end of the single-desk CWB. He noted that although the port remains a strategically valuable national resource, it is at risk of losing its economic reason for existence: grain movement.
Sigurdson observed that the single-desk CWB was the economic lynch pin which made prairie grain production viable by ensuring the efficient movement and reliable delivery of high quality-assured grain to customers, and guaranteeing that farmers received the premiums customers paid.
“To get the advantages of the CWB there is no other solution than to reinstate the CWB single-desk selling system,” he concluded.
The meeting concluded by unanimously passing the following resolution:
“Whereas, the loss of the farmer-elected, single-desk Canadian Wheat Board has resulted in an increasingly dysfunctional rail system, no grain logistics oversight, a loss of transport efficiency on rail and at sea, reduced grain quality guarantees to other nations, and an overall loss of $6.5 billion in income to farmers over the last two years, which has been devastating to the economy of Western Canada; and
“Whereas, the ending of the CWB marketing system has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs across Canada including 460 direct good-quality jobs in the heart of Winnipeg and a further 1,834 full-time equivalent jobs that were sustained by the CWB’s administrative expenditures;
“Therefore be it resolved, that this meeting supports the farmers of Western Canada by calling for the re-establishment of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), and single-desk selling of grain in western Canada.”