One of the greatest joys of blogging is your ability to write and think about things that you know absolutely nothing about! Despite having grown up in a farming hub-city (as I like to describe my hometown), which saw it’s fair share of farmers coming in weekly to supplement their groceries, toys and genetic bloodlines – I know very little about the Canadian Wheat Board… and how its monopoly actually works.
It is my understanding that the Canadian Wheat Board was established in some bygone era to accomplish two primary tasks: i) to ensure that farmers maximized the usage of prime Canadian land by organizing crop rotations and national food needs; ii) to serve as a marketing & sales block to help Canadian farmers have access to global markets and get the highest returns possible on their grains. These purposes are easily understood as necessary in the early days of the Wheat Board and for a country that has major land assets but a small population.
The current federal government wants to dismantle the Wheat Board and from all reports the farming community is split as to whether this is a good idea. Some farmers are saying that the administrative baggage of the Wheat Board (and its inherent control mechanisms) actually limit their ability to sell on the open market and thus costs them money each growing season. Other farmers believe that the Wheat Board is the only thing that’s keeping them sustainable and their help in finding international markets is essential for their continued existence.
My assumption is that the larger farm operations are in favour of the Wheat Board’s dissolution because they have the financial resources to market and sell their own grains – typically because they are large agribusinesses and the rare super-huge family/communal farm. That said, the smaller farmers who are barely breaking even now – or are in remote areas where the cost of production and distribution of grains is difficult – couldn’t handle the additional cost and time commitment to sell their own grains. The idea of a dual system doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone.
I know that I haven’t paid enough attention to this because…well… the one thing that I’ve always thought about farmers is – they complain about everything. Things never seem to go good for the farmers between weather patterns, poor yields, rampant weeds, genetically modified seed and whatever else comes their ways. I just kind of tuned out.
As best I understand, it seems like the Wheat Board is a good idea and that trying to get rid of it only serves a neo-conservative ideology of deregulation and the lobbying interests of large agribusiness (which sucks). But I also understand enough to know that I wouldn’t this conclusion to the bank to cash it in.
The one thing that does make sense to me is to allow farmers to vote out (or in) the existence of their own Wheat Board (which I believe is an entrenched right in its initial charter legislation). For a conservative government that says it values direct democracy so much – why not allow all the farmers who are apart of the Board to vote to (dis)continue its existence. As Bob Rae contended, “If the Harper government is so convinced that the majority of farmers support their dissolution of the Wheat Board then what’s the fear of putting it to a vote?”
Let the people most effected make the decision – rather than bureaucrats in Ottawa or ignorant bloggers from YYC.